SINGAPORE - Residents in ageing Housing Board towns will get a chance to experience what it is like to go en bloc, in the Government's bid to avoid mass redevelopment of such estates all at one go.
Under the new Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers), to kick in about 20 years from now, owners in flats aged 70 years and older can vote for the Goverment to buy back their homes before their leases run out.
They can use the proceeds to buy a new flat, while the Government redevelops the precinct.
If they vote no, they can continue to live in their flats till the leases run out.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in announcing the planned move at his National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 19), said Vers would allow the authorities to redevelop older HDB towns in an orderly way - paced over two to three decades, rather than crammed in four or five years.
He noted that several older estates, such as Marine Parade, Ang Mo Kio and Bedok, were built within short periods, mostly during the 1970s and 80s.
Without such a scheme, "we will have to find new homes for a lot of people at once," he said.
"HDB will have to tear down and rebuild the old flats in a hurry... These towns will become construction sites all over again, with cranes all over the place," he said.
The scheme, he added, allows redevelopment to take place in a "more measured and considered way".
It also gives more Singaporeans a chance to experience large-scale redevelopment - something previously restricted to those part of the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers). Only 5 per cent of flats are estimated to be eligible for Sers.
Unlike Sers, however, the compensation for Vers will be "less generous", as there is less financial upside for the Government to take back these flats early. Eligible Sers flats often have "high development value", where the Housing Board is likely to build more flats in the underutilised plot of land.
Also, unlike Sers, Vers will be determined by a vote.
Mr Lee noted that Vers will not be implemented for another 20 years, adding that the Government needs more time to work out how to select the precincts, space the redevelopments out, what compensation would be and how to afford the scheme for the long haul.
"But I think such a scheme is necessary, and so we will start planning for Vers now," he said.