Make lease buyback more senior-friendly

The eligibility conditions for the Lease Buyback Scheme are not elder-friendly (Lease buyback to be extended to all flats; Aug 21).

For example, all owners must be 65 or older to be eligible.

This is an issue for men from the older generation who had married women younger than them. If, for example, a man is 65 years old and his wife is 53 years old, and both are joint owners of a flat. The husband must wait till his wife turns 65 before they are considered eligible. He would be 77 by then.

The older the male, the shorter the time he will have to enjoy his retirement after selling part of the lease.

Therefore, the Housing Board should consider allowing either owner to be 65 or older at the time of application to be eligible, and not both.

Another issue is about those who retire early, before the age of 65, due to health reasons.

Shouldn't the HDB grant an exemption for this group if they can prove they suffer from ill health?

This is important because those who retire early due to health problems would require more money to pay for their medical and living expenses.

Moreover, if owners have reached their CPF Life payout eligibility age at 65, why must they use the money received from the sale of their lease to top up their CPF Retirement Accounts?

Such conditions leave the elderly with few options, especially for those who may not have much in their CPF accounts and are in need of cash for their medical and retirement expenses.

The scheme must be designed in such a way that it really helps the elderly to have some disposable income.

The HDB also has not clarified whether owners are allowed to rent out the entire flat after selling their lease.

Some owners may prefer to stay with their children to earn more income from the rental.

While the Lease Buyback Scheme does sound attractive to the elderly, it must also not be too onerous for them.

Cheng Choon Fei

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2018, with the headline Make lease buyback more senior-friendly. Subscribe