SINGAPORE - Some 1,506 households are currently under the Housing Board's Lease Buyback Scheme, with 541 of them taking it up in the past year.
The scheme, introduced in March 2009, allows elderly flat owners to sell part of their lease back to the HDB for retirement income.
It has been updated several times, including in April last year, when it was extended to include four-room flats.
This change allowed the scheme to cover three-quarters of elderly HDB households, compared to 35 per cent previously.
The household income ceiling for taking part in the scheme was also raised from $3,000 to $10,000, and later further upped to $12,000.
In addition, flat owners under the scheme can now choose the length of lease to be retained, from 15 to 35 years, as long as it covers the youngest owner till age 95.
Previously, the only option was to retain 30 years of the lease.
Some 541 households have taken up the scheme between April last year and March this year, said the HDB.
Of these, 233 households live in four-room flats, and nearly half, or 261 households, chose to retain a lease length other than 30 years.
About 5 per cent, or 27 households, had a monthly income exceeding $3,000.
It takes about three months to complete an application for the scheme, which includes financial counselling to ensure that applicants make an informed decision, the HDB said.
Taman Jurong resident Yap Kok Seong, 66, and his wife took up the scheme earlier this year and sold 53 of the 83 years left on their four-room flat lease back to the HDB.
The proceeds amounted to around $195,000, of which about $140,000 was used to buy Central Provident Fund (CPF) Life plans, which provide the couple with about $400 each in monthly payouts.
"We are not planning to pass down the flat to our two daughters - they already have their own house," said Mr Yap.
The retired technician intends to use some of the lease proceeds to travel.
He said: "We have worked for so many years, it's time for us to relax. My wife wants to visit her relatives in Hainan. I would like to see Hong Kong and Macau."