SINGAPORE - Two new rehousing options under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) will be introduced to provide more choices that meet the different needs of residents.
The first to be able to use these options will be the owners of Sers flats in Ang Mo Kio, in a move which addresses their concerns about having to fork out cash for similar-sized replacement units.
The Housing Board said on Saturday (July 2) it will offer affected residents at Blocks 562 to 565 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 three-room or larger flats at the replacement sites on a 50-year lease, if the new flat is able to last the owners until they are 95.
This is the first time that HDB is offering four-room flats on a shorter lease.
There are currently two HDB schemes – the two-room flexi scheme and the Fresh Start Housing Scheme – that already offer leases shorter than 99 years, with conditions.
For the second new rehousing option, HDB will offer the lease buyback scheme to Sers flat owners aged 65 and over. They can then buy a short-lease replacement flat after that, HDB said.
Under the lease buyback scheme, flat owners can keep a lease that will cover them and their spouse till they are at least 95 years old, and sell the tail end of the lease to HDB.
These two additional rehousing options will also be extended to flat owners of Blocks 212 to 218 Marsiling Crescent/Lane whose flats were announced for acquisition for the redevelopment and extension of Woodlands Checkpoint, HDB said.
National Development Mnister Desmond Lee, who was seen speaking to residents in the affected blocks in Ang Mo Kio on Saturday, said in a Facebook post: “These additional options are offered with our seniors in mind – to allow them to continue to have a home-for-life after Sers and live in new flats in a familiar environment, while addressing their concern of topping up for a replacement flat of comparable type or size.”
The HDB had said in April that the four blocks in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 had been selected under Sers, a scheme aimed at rejuvenating older estates. The blocks, completed in 1979, comprise mainly three- and four-room units.
The 606 households were previously only offered replacement flats with a fresh 99-year lease in Ang Mo Kio Drive, next to ITE College Central. Owners also could not apply for the lease buyback scheme after their flats had been announced for Sers.
Residents had previously expressed dismay at having to pay up to $100,000 for a replacement flat.
Observers whom The Straits Times spoke to said while the new options are attractive and solve the short-term problems residents have raised, they also raise longer-term questions about these flats and the wider housing system.
ERA Realty head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said: “Taking up the shorter leases for the replacement flats may provide affected households with some immediate financial gains.
“However, the owners of flats with shorter leases could face issues in the years ahead, such as the values of their flats depreciating faster than their neighbours’ flats which have longer leases.”
The selling of such flats will also create a unique situation, said Mr Mak, where for the first time, HDB resale flats in a five-year-old block will be sold with a 45-year lease, referring to what is left of the 50-year lease when a resident sells a replacement unit after the five-year minimum occupation period.
He said: “This means that they will go through a price discovery process where some resale flats could potentially be mispriced in the short term, leading to either the buyer or the seller losing out.”
Associate Professor Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences said problems like this are likely to start to arise when these flats approach the mid-point of their lease in the next 10 to 20 years.
Having flats with shorter leases also leads to a deeper question about the nature of flat ownership in Singapore, he added.
“As leases get shorter and more flexible, they are becoming in some ways indistinguishable from long-term rental contracts – so it raises the more philosophical question, what are you really buying when you buy a HDB flat and can we build communities with a more flexible notion of ownership?”
Residents who have queries can also contact their Sers journey manager, call HDB's Sers inquiry line on 1800-866-3070 from Mondays to Fridays, 8am to 5pm, or contact HDB via MyRequest@HDB.