Debate on ministries’ budgets: National Development

Assisted living pilot site in public housing planned for Bukit Batok

More options for the elderly: As the assisted living model is new, focus group discussions will be conducted to seek views on the proposed concept for assisted living in public housing, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament.
More options for the elderly: As the assisted living model is new, focus group discussions will be conducted to seek views on the proposed concept for assisted living in public housing, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The Ministry of National Development (MND) plans to launch its assisted living pilot site in public housing at Bukit Batok next year, and also explore similar retirement housing models for private residential sites.

This comes as more seniors are looking for alternative residential options like assisted living, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in Parliament yesterday.

"Assisted living means 'home and care' combined, so that is why MND and Ministry of Health must come together to offer assisted living. It's not something one ministry can do. When you go for assisted living, you are not just buying a flat, but a package of care services tied to that assisted living flat... Typically, in such assisted living apartments, there will be more communal and shared spaces for residents to interact with each other... and the individual units will be smaller," he said.

As the assisted living model is new, he said focus group discussions will be conducted to seek views on the proposed concept for assisted living in public housing. He added that similar retirement housing models for private residential sites are also being explored.

"We are studying potential sites to pilot these assisted living typologies which include... the option of converting vacant school sites into retirement homes.

"The key here is that when we put out these sites for private developers or private players to bid, we do not want it to be simply a property play. We do not want them to take the site, build something and sell the units. With assisted living, this has to be a package of services plus residential units combined.

"We will need to craft the appropriate rules and safeguards to ensure this happens. We are working on them and will provide details when we are ready," Mr Wong said.

On monetisation and housing options available to seniors, Mr Wong said the lease buyback scheme (LBS) is now available to all HDB flat owners, with the extension of LBS to five-room and larger flats.

He noted that the response has been positive. In the first two months of the year, 160 households from five-room and larger flats had applied for the scheme, he said.

"I think more seniors are aware of the LBS and various monetisation options, but we will continue to do more to raise public awareness."

But he added that he also understood the scheme may not be an option suitable for everyone.

"Some may wish to right-size to a two-room flexi flat. The options are available. Member of Parliament Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) asked if MND can facilitate the sale of flats if seniors face difficulties, be it due to market sentiments or the Ethnic Integration Policy.

"We have discussed this before in this House. We recognise the concerns, and HDB will continue to do its best to assist, including by deferring key collection and giving them more time to sell."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2019, with the headline 'Assisted living pilot site in public housing planned for Bukit Batok'. Print Edition | Subscribe