Two new Housing Board (HDB) upgrading programmes to be rolled out in one to two decades' time continued to be of interest, with four MPs trying to glean more specifics on what they would cover.
Yesterday's Parliament sitting marked the second in a row in which MPs sought more details about the Home Improvement Programme II (HIP II) and Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers), both unveiled at August's National Day Rally speech.
Yesterday, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said HIP II, a second round of upgrading for HDB flats around 60 to 70 years old, will focus on common maintenance issues which occur in ageing flats. But what these would be will be revealed only later.
"We will need to study the specific scope of works, including taking into consideration the condition of our older flats, closer to the launch of HIP II," he said. HIP II will be launched in about 10 years' time.
The multibillion-dollar project will also be a huge financial commitment for the Government. As such, "we will also need to see how to pace the works to take into account fiscal sustainability and the capacity of our construction industry", he said.
He later told Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) that HDB would study some of the suggestions he raised during supplementary question time, which included methods to slow down water seepage in between floors.
Mr Wong also told Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) that older rental flats will be eligible for HIP II, as they are under the ongoing HIP I.
He added that there will be no wastage of public funds in carrying out both HIP II and Vers, which lets HDB dwellers vote to go en bloc and sell their ageing flats to the Government.
He was responding to Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who was concerned about unnecessary expenditure on blocks which might go through HIP II, then be slated for redevelopment under Vers a few years later.
Mr Wong said that how flats will be valued have to be worked out further, to ensure that Vers is "fiscally sustainable in the long term".
He also addressed safety concerns about flats as the buildings age, noting that there are existing regulatory and inspection regimes to ensure that HDB buildings are structurally safe.
For example, under the Periodic Structural Inspection, all residential buildings are inspected every 10 years. But for older HDB blocks, said Mr Wong, the Housing Board requires inspections every five years.
Mr Wong also told Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) his ministry would consider their suggestions to lower the minimum age of an owner to be eligible for the Lease Buyback Scheme in future reviews. The minimum age is currently 65. In August, the authorities expanded the scheme to those living in five-room flats or larger.
In total, 3,100 households have sold part of their leases to the Government since the scheme was rolled out in March 2009. This comprises 830 households in four-room flats, 2,030 households in three-room flats, and 240 households in smaller flats.