New housing policy Vers to be discussed in Parliament on Monday

The Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme will give owners of older HDB flats a chance at "going en bloc" before their leases run out.
The Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme will give owners of older HDB flats a chance at "going en bloc" before their leases run out.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The issue of public housing, including a new policy that will take effect only in about 20 years' time, will be a main topic of discussion when Parliament sits on Monday (Sept 10).

Three of the six MPs asking about housing want more details on the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers), according to the parliamentary agenda issued by the Clerk of Parliament Office on Friday.

The scheme, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his National Day Rally speech last month, will give owners of older HDB flats a chance at "going en bloc" before their leases run out.

Under Vers, residents in selected precincts can vote for the Government take back their flats. They can do so from around the 70-year mark of their lease.

Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) is asking about the projected timeframe for the implementation of Vers, which precincts will be eligible for it and how the Government will calculate the compensation due to the residents.

"So far, residents are supportive (of Vers) but would like more clarity on the mechanisms," he told The Straits Times on Friday.

It is also important to have the answers put on parliamentary record now, as it will be many more years before Vers will take effect, he added.

Currently, the oldest flats in Singapore are around 50 years old so it would be at least 20 years before Vers is likely to kick in.

Having it on record will allow the Government and citizens in future to look back at the intended purpose and strategy underlying the policy, said Mr Yam, who is also the chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee on National Development.

The questions raised by Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) include what options residents will have for their old flats if their precinct does not undergo Vers.

 
 
 
 

The issue is especially pertinent for his ward, which includes some of the oldest flats in Singapore. "Some of the flats in Toa Payoh East and Novena are approaching 50 years old," he said.

"Residents are generally positive about Vers, as it is something they can look forward to, but they also want more details."

Other housing questions MPs raised sought more information on plans to relax Central Provident Fund rules for buying older flats and what more could be done to help owners who face difficulty selling older flats, especially elderly Singaporeans who are hoping to downgrade to smaller units.

Monday's Parliament session will also feature the second reading of the Land Transport (Enforcement Measures) Bill.

The Bill, aimed at improving safety on roads and paths, will allow the Land Transport Authority to outsource its enforcement actions against errant users of bicycles and personal mobility devices.

But the powers given to the outsourced enforcement officers will be confined to a "specified, limited set of offences", like the indiscriminate parking of bicycles.