The owners of three freehold landed houses in MacPherson were served notices of eviction yesterday, and their properties taken over by the State, after running out of time.
The land had been acquired in 2010 to build high-rise homes around the Mattar MRT station, slated to open at the end of this year.
While 12 of 15 households have since moved out, three - at 27, 29 and 33 Merpati Road - have stayed on past several deadlines. And yesterday was the final one.
Five officers - led by the Singapore Land Authority's (SLA) deputy chief executive Simon Ong - served possession notices at around 10am to the remaining Merpati Road residents. The letters were different from the reminders they received in the past - this time, it means they no longer own the buildings too.
Said Mr George Oh, a retiree who has lived at unit 29 for more than two decades: "We expected them to give us another extension. Since they say they want to redevelop now, we intend to move out as soon as possible."
The 60-year-old and his neighbours had busted four previous deadlines. The holdouts will soon receive an enforcement notice to vacate their homes in the next 28 days. Those who choose to further delay moving out may face legal action (see related story).
To accommodate the residents' requests, the SLA spokesman said the deadlines were extended for a total of one year and eight months after they did not meet the first deadline in August 2015. Said the spokesman: "The deadline cannot be extended further as agencies will need to commence road realignment and infrastructure works to prepare the area for development."
What's next if residents stay put
Now that the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) is in possession of the houses in Merpati Road, it can start taking action against the residents if they failed to move out by yesterday.
An enforcement notice would be given to residents today to inform them of their unlawful occupation of state land. They would be given another 28 days - until May 24 - to vacate.
If they do not leave by then, SLA can apply for a court order to take back the properties. This will typically take between three and six months. The police can enforce the court order once it has been granted.
However, such a case of forced eviction has never happened in Singapore.
In April last year, SLA took legal possession of a block of walk-up apartments in Tanjong Katong to make way for the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line's Amber MRT station.
Some residents there said the compensation amounts were insufficient and appealed for a higher amount. They are believed to have since vacated the apartments.
Ng Jun Sen
The Straits Times understands that the three households were offered between $1.7 million and $3.3 million as compensation, determined by private valuers and based on market rates at the time of the acquisition in 2010.
The compensation is on top of other assistance packages offered to the remaining residents, including advance payment of the compensation, the option of renting an interim public housing unit and priority balloting for a Housing Board flat.
When asked why they had waited until now, two of the three households told The Straits Times that they resisted moving out because the compensation would not allow them to buy a similar-sized landed property in the area.
Said Mr Oh, who secured a Build-to-Order flat in the Punggol area with SLA's help: "It was not easy to upgrade ourselves to live in a landed property, but now, it is a downgrade."
His younger brother, Mr Oh Eng, 54, told The Straits Times that the other households had also initially opposed the acquisition and intended to seek legal options. But, he added, "they realised it would not be possible to contest the land acquisition law, so one by one, people agreed to move out".
A resident of unit 33, who declined to be identified, claimed that most of the 12 other owners have moved on to smaller homes. He said the compensation amount should not be based on the 2010 market rates as it would take years for owners to hand over their homes.
The Straits Times understands that although the residents could have filed an appeal with the Appeals Board (Land Acquisition) for higher compensation, none did so.
Property analysts said the owners had a choice to surrender the properties as soon as the compensation amount was established after the notices were served.
Referring to the issue of compensation based on 2010 market rates, JLL Singapore's head of valuation advisory services Tan Keng Chiam said: "The sooner the owners surrender their properties, the less they will be affected by changes in market conditions."