Powered stair climbers among new methods explored for flats without direct lift access: HDB

There remains about 150 HDB blocks with about 2,000 units without direct lift access. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - New methods to improve accessibility for residents living in flats without direct lift access are being explored by the Housing Board (HDB).

These include the use of new technology like powered stair climbers to enable wheelchair users to move up and down staircases, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said in a parliamentary reply on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Over the years, HDB has adopted innovative technical solutions and conducted pilot trials to explore options to bring direct lift access to such blocks.

Some examples of solutions that have been successfully implemented include lifts that do not have a machine room at the top of the shafts and bubble lifts, Mr Lee said.

Through these various efforts, the vast majority of the 5,300 blocks have benefited from the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP). However, there remains about 150 blocks, with about 2,000 units without direct lift access, as it is not feasible to implement LUP due to high cost, or existing technical and site constraints, Mr Lee explained.

"For such blocks, HDB will continue to explore new methods to bring down LUP costs and alternatives to improve accessibility for residents living in flats without direct lift access," Mr Lee said.

Since 2015, HDB has managed to use new technology to install lifts in about 50 blocks previously found unfeasible for LUP.

Back in 2015, HDB piloted two new solutions - the Pneumatic Vacuum Elevator and the Vertical Platform Lift, to ensure that they were safe and technically reliable before rolling them out. Surveys were also conducted to gather feedback from users to determine if these two solutions were suitable for wider implementation.

Residents living in these blocks who are in urgent need of direct lift access due to medical conditions or mobility reasons are eligible for the Lift access Housing Grant of up to $30,000 when they buy another flat with direct lift access.

As at December last year, HDB received 35 complete applications for the Lift access Housing Grant. Of these, 28 applications were approved, while two are under evaluation.

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