SINGAPORE - About 9,200 households have signed up for the Housing Board’s Lease Buyback Scheme since it was introduced in March 2009, said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.
When the scheme was first introduced, only owners of three-room or smaller flats were eligible, but it has now been expanded to include owners of all flat types, including five-room and larger flats, he added.
Responding to a question from Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang) in Parliament on Monday, Mr Lee touched on why some home owners are not considering the scheme and whether there are plans to improve it.
He said there are many reasons why elderly flat owners may not be keen to sign up for the scheme.
Some elderly flat owners may not be keen as they have other sources of income from their children, or they may prefer to take up other options such as downsizing to a smaller flat or renting out spare rooms or the entire flat, Mr Lee added.
The Lease Buyback Scheme aims to improve the retirement adequacy of elderly flat owners by allowing the sale of part of the lease to the Government. Some of the money from the sale will be used to top up their Central Provident Fund (CPF) Retirement Accounts.
The savings in that account can then be used to join CPF Life, which will provide seniors with a monthly income for life while they continue to live in the flat.
In April 2020, the scheme’s maximum bonus was raised by 50 per cent across all flat types – to $30,000 for three-room and smaller flats, $15,000 for four-room flats, and $7,500 for five-room and larger flats, Mr Lee said.
Mr Liang also asked about residents who were worried about outliving the lease and having no place to stay.
Mr Lee said the lease will cover the owners and their spouse until they are at least 95 years old, and HDB will work with seniors on top-ups to ensure they can continue living in their flats beyond that.
He also responded to Mr Liang’s question about some seniors not knowing about the scheme.
Mr Lee said the Government has organised talks and exhibitions, and also set up inquiry booths at community events to spread the word on the scheme.
Seniors can also call the HDB branch offices to arrange for a financial counselling session on the options they qualify for, such as their eligibility for different lease lengths and how much they can expect to get from the sale, the minister added.
He said HDB will continue to review the housing needs of elderly flat owners to ensure that housing policies meet their changing needs and preferences.