Delayed BTO projects to get priority; lift upgrading debate heats up as election issue in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC

The PAP's candidates for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, (from left) Mr Alex Yam, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad and Ms Hany Soh, during a walkabout at Woodlands MRT station on July 2, 2020. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Build-to-Order (BTO) projects that have been delayed due to the Covid-19 outbreak will get priority for completion once construction resumes, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said on Thursday (July 2).

The Housing Board said in late May that some projects could be delayed by up to six months, although it plans to launch about 7,800 BTO flats in Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Choa Chu Kang, Geylang, Pasir Ris, Tampines, Tengah and Woodlands in August.

Mr Zaqy, who is in the four-member Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC team anchored by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, said during a walkabout at Woodlands MRT station: "The whole construction sector needs time to restart and we are doing our best and utmost to prioritise projects that will need support, so HDB flats are one of those.

"We know many young couples will be looking forward to the upcoming launches and rest assured, the MND will do its utmost to support this and to see how best that we don't delay our projects any further."

He also promised to look into a lift upgrading issue raised by residents of two blocks in the GRC, as the opposing Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) ramped up its criticism of the problem.

The SDP said earlier this year that the lack of lift access on every floor at Block 115 and 119 in Marsiling Rise had inconvenienced residents. It started an online petition on the issue that has garnered about 500 signatures.

It also posted a video interview with two affected residents on Thursday talking about the challenges they faced.

Mr Zaqy reiterated a previous point raised by the ministry that almost all flats now have lift access on every floor, except some 150 blocks across Singapore, as it is not possible for the HDB to install new lifts.

The MND said in 2018 that about 70 per cent of these 150 blocks are not eligible for its lift upgrading programme "due to cost considerations".

Mr Zaqy said: "You also want to be fair to residents and taxpayers on how taxpayer dollars are being used to do upgrading.

"But certainly over time, with different ways in which lifts can be upgraded or used, we can review the different types of cost structures to see which flats are now eligible... I just want to assure residents we will look into it and I will take it up."

Mr Bryan Lim, who helms the SDP's Marsiling-Yew Tee team, said incumbent MP Ong Teng Koon had made similar comments previously.

Mr Lim told the media during the SDP's walkabout in Marsiling Road on Thursday morning: "Many people say it is a minor issue, but you actually go to the ground and you see the elderly, the handicapped, they are suffering because they don't have lift access at every floor.

"It pains me, it really pains me."

The upcoming election will be the second time the PAP and SDP are facing off in the constituency.

In 2015, the SDP team featuring Mr Lim and three other members was defeated by the PAP team led by Mr Wong and Madam Halimah Yacob, who has since become President. The SDP attracted 31.27 per cent of the vote.

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