Many Housing Development Board (HDB) owners have worked hard to finance their property, only to end up surrendering their depreciated/worthless flat to the State after the 99-year lease (Rachel Au Yong, 2017).
Many Singaporeans were willing to purchase older Housing Development Board (HDB) flats because they believed it was their retirement asset and that they harboured hopes in reaping the benefits of Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). However, in March last year, National Development minister Lawrence Wong wrote in his blog that only 4% of HDB flats with high redevelopment potential will be eligible for SERS (Rachel Au Yong, 2017). This sparked debates amongst the HDB flat owners.
To address the issue, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong introduced Voluntary En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (VERS), in this year’s National Day Rally (Rachel Au Yong, 2018). Under this scheme, residents get to vote if they want to sell their flat back to the government. If the sale goes through, the government will redevelop the precinct and residents will use the proceeds to pay for another flat.
The lease expiry issue is a major headache for policymakers in many countries and affects many citizens, especially in land-scarce Singapore where 80% of us reside in an HDB flat (Wong Pei Ting, 2018). This issue will affect me directly because I will be a flat owner one day and I should start weighing my options and considerations.
Suppose I were to purchase a BTO flat which comes with a fresh 99-year lease, I will find it difficult to sell once my flat has less than 60 years of the remaining lease, due to restrictions in HDB loan, bank loan and Central Provident Fund (CPF) (Wong Pei Ting, 2018). In the case that I am unable to sell, I will bequeath the flat to my children in future who will continue to stay in a depreciated house and will find it even harder to sell as the house gets closer to lease expiry. Alternatively, suppose that I purchase a resale flat, the lease will be shorter and the difficulties in selling the house will surface even earlier. Either way, it results in a vicious cycle.
In conclusion, it will be helpful if the government can continue to explore ways/roll out short-term solutions (unlike VERS where it might commence in 20 years’ time) to cope with the lease expiry issues and alleviate Singaporeans worries and concerns.