Allow HDB owners to benefit via short-term rentals

The statement in Miss Susan Tan Lin Neo's letter (HDB flats meant to be homes, not profit-making units; Feb 11) runs counter to what National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told Housing Board flat residents last year, when he referred to their units as stored-value assets and a nest egg for their retirement needs.

Since many HDB residents are not well-to-do, giving them the option to rent out their homes through Airbnb may be a godsend.

As not all flats are purchased at subsidised rates, sweeping restrictions preventing these assets from being used to churn additional income for their owners should not apply across the board.

Most owners of private condominiums are not in dire need of supplementary income from Airbnb or other forms of short-term rental. In fact, most landlords of private properties might prefer long-term leases that do not entail the hassle of dealing with multiple short-term tenants.

Miss Tan said that the movements of tourists going in and out of HDB flats will create unnecessary noise, and disturb the neighbours.

But, I think this is no different from noisy neighbours and unsavoury long-term tenants who can be every bit as annoying.

The presence of strangers - another point Miss Tan had made - is already quite common at most HDB estates since there is no restriction of access for deliverymen, salespeople, contractors, or befrienders from voluntary welfare organisations. These strangers may also create unease or pose a potential threat to residents.

Should short-term tenants create a commotion, flat owners may turn to the HDB or police to intervene. How different is this to summoning a condominium's security personnel or management to take action?

HDB flats will return to the state at the end of 99 years. As only 4 per cent of HDB flats have been identified for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme since the scheme was launched in 1995, forking out exorbitant prices for older flats in anticipation of a windfall is risky .

The steady and precipitous depreciation of such homes will destroy what many count on as retirement assets.

The Housing Board must consider home-sharing carefully and how it fits in with the Government's asset-enhancement policy for public housing.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Allow HDB owners to benefit via short-term rentals'. Print Edition | Subscribe