Parliament: Suspended home renovation works to be given priority

Existing ongoing renovations will be given priority. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Home-owners whose renovation works were disrupted will be given priority to restart in Phase 1 of the post-circuit breaker period, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong told Parliament on Tuesday (May 26), but noted that the Government would consider allowing new home renovation projects to proceed earlier if contractors can show that the appropriate measures are in place.

Mr Wong was responding to questions from Workers' Party MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) about home-owners who had bought homes prior to the circuit breaker period only to find themselves unable to move in because renovation works were disrupted. Ms Lim noted that Building and Construction Authority (BCA) guidelines have placed works by individual households in a category that would resume in later phases of Singapore's reopening.

Mr Wong clarified that home renovations will be resumed in two steps, with projects already under way allowed to proceed first.

"For new projects, we will defer, or we will suggest to the home-owners and contractors who are embarking on new renovation projects that these be will pushed back later. So settle the existing ongoing one first," he said.

But he added: "We have indeed made the commitment that if there is any contractor who will come forward and say - I have the workers, they are safe, I have the measures in place and I would like to be prioritised ahead in Phase 1 - we will be prepared to consider such cases as well."

He also noted that the authorities had put in place measures to help home-buyers whose moving and renovation plans had been affected.

He said that at the start of the circuit breaker, some exemptions had been made to allow for minor works to be quickly completed so that the homes could be made safe and people could move in quickly.

For those who could not complete renovation works, the Government had worked to see if the transaction timelines could be pushed back and if home-owners who were impacted could move in with relatives and friends.

It had also worked with service apartment operators to offer subsidised rates for impacted home-owners needing temporary accommodation.

He added: "In the worst case, for those who are really urgent and have difficulties, (we are looking at) offering interim rental flats."

Mr Wong stressed that while there is no change to the rules for the minimum rental periods - six months for HDB flats and three months for private residential properties - however, in view of the Covid-19 situation, HDB and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has been exercising flexibility on a case-by-case basis for households that are in genuine difficulty and need temporary accommodation.

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He said his ministry will remind the agencies to be "prompt and responsive to some of these appeals when they show up".

He added: "We will continue to do whatever we can to assist them."

During a briefing on May 15, BCA chief executive Hugh Lim had said that building contractors will gradually resume operations from June 2, starting with critical projects. Most construction work had been suspended when the circuit breaker began on April 7, with only 5 per cent of the construction workforce, about 20,000 people, continuing to work. BCA expects the number to double to 10 per cent in June.

However, those involved in home renovation say work could be delayed even after they are allowed to resume given the labour crunch and need to meet a stringent set of requirements.

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