Geylang private homes to be returned to the State when leases expire in 2020, no extensions allowed

Units at Geylang Lorong 3, where the leases will end in 3 years time, on June 20, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Units at Geylang Lorong 3, where the leases will end in 3 years time, on June 20, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Potted cactuses and a porcelain fish are seen at a unit along Geylang Lorong 3. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Units at Geylang Lorong 3, where the leases will end in 3 years time, on June 20, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - In a first for residential properties in Singapore, 191 private terraced houses at Geylang Lorong 3 will be returned to the State when their leases run out at the end of 2020, with no extensions allowed.

For the 33 homeowners who are still residing there, time is running out. They will have to hand back the vacated units to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) when their leases run out in 3-½ years with no compensation.

Each of the 191 units will be assigned a dedicated SLA officer who will be the home owners' point of contact with the authorities, the authority said in a statement on Tuesday (June 20).

Sixteen SLA officers went knocking doors around the estate, which were sold to residents on a 60-year lease term in 1960, to introduce themselves to the owners and guide them through the process.

While only 33 units are owner-occupiers, the remaining units consist of temple operators or are rented out to foreign workers when the homes' original owners moved out over the years. They, too, will have to vacate when the units' leases expire.

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By then, owners will have to remove all their belongings and clear the premises. They must also terminate all their utilities and services and pay all outstanding bills, said SLA.

They will not need to do any reinstatement or demolition works when handing their Geylang homes over.

This is the first time a residential plot of land has reached the end of its lease. The 70-year leasehold private houses in Jalan Chempaka Kuning and Jalan Chempaka Puteh, near Tanah Merah, is the next in line to reach expiry in 2034.

Since 2008, there has been seven lease extensions granted in en bloc sales of private condominiums, but none for private landed homes.

The two hectare plot of land in Geylang Lorong 3 will be earmarked for future public housing, but SLA did not give a timeline to when the redevelopment process will start or complete.

Said SLA's chief executive Tan Boon Khai: "As a general policy, upon lease expiry, the State land and the property will revert back to the Government. In this case, there are exciting plans to rejuvenate the Kallang area and this site will be slated for public housing."

SLA said it is committed to helping the owners through the lease expiry process.

"For owner-occupants who need alternative housing, there are various existing housing schemes that will help them transit smoothly. These owner-occupants will not be left without options," said the authority's statement.

Owners can buy a Housing Board flat or private property if they do not already have alternative housing. They can also choose to rent a home.

The Straits Times reported about the impending lease expiry at Geylang Lorong 3 last month, with several residents expressing their concerns that they will have no place to relocate to.

One resident told reporters on Tuesday that she only learnt about the lease expiry issue from the ST report.

Said Madam Tan Whay Seok, 69, who works as a hawker nearby: "We are now very anxious because we don't know where to go after this. Recently, we spent a lot of money on my husband's leg surgery, so we do not have a lot of savings left.

"I now hope that we can be allowed to stay nearby."

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