A choice for home owners but some concerns raised

In another 20 years or so, Madam Badariah Hussein, 68, will probably cast a "yes" vote if her flat is selected for the newly announced Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers).

Her four-room flat at Block 161 Mei Ling Street is one of the oldest in Singapore, with 51 years left on its lease. For a while now, the ongoing 99-year leasehold debate has caused uncertainty over the depreciation of her home.

With Vers, the retired clerk could cash out her ageing home at a time when potential buyers are not as plentiful. Said Madam Badariah, who lives with her husband: "I am happy to sell back to the authorities and live with my children. This scheme appeals to me."

But not all residents are keen on collective sale schemes for Housing Board flats. Some, like MacPherson resident Yeo Phong Chew, 59, will likely be voting against Vers, citing his wish to stay on until the lease expires.

Vers, which was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally yesterday, will allow ageing HDB flats to be collectively sold back to the Government before lease expiry, if residents vote for the sale to proceed.

While not all residents might favour the option of Vers, analysts hailed the new scheme for offering a choice to residents who worry about asset depreciation and maintenance issues at the 70-year mark of their leases.

Those living in older flats, such as in Toa Payoh and Redhill, will likely rejoice at this new option since Vers makes older flats more valuable, said experts.

Depreciation of these flats will likely be less steep and residents need not worry about being deprived of a home, said senior director and research head at Knight Frank Singapore, Dr Lee Nai Jia.

But some have voiced concerns over the scheme's details and implementation, such as the quantum of compensation that will be offered to Vers residents. Vers will be less generous than the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, said Mr Lee yesterday.


Said ZACD Group executive director Nicholas Mak: "Will the compensation be enough to buy another flat to give the flat owner the same standard of living?"

Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Alex Yam, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, was worried that there could be acrimony between those for and against Vers.

He raised the question of how to address the concerns of those who are unhappy with the outcome after going through a voluntary vote.

While these details still need to be ironed out, Vers provides an answer to the leasehold debate at the 70-year mark of an HDB flat's lifespan, said experts.

Mr Chris Koh, director of real estate agency Chris International said: "It is an exciting new proposition and a way to resolve the 99-year lease issue, but people must be realistic about the amount of payout since the sale is occurring at the tail end of the lease."

• Additional reporting by Melody Zaccheus and Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2018, with the headline 'A choice for home owners but some concerns raised'. Print Edition | Subscribe