Saturday, September 15, 2018

Private developers may be involved in Vers scheme: Lawrence Wong

By Janice Lim

10 September, 2018


SINGAPORE – Private developers may be involved in the new Government scheme to redevelop public housing precincts that are around 70 years old, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (Sep 10) in Parliament.

There were questions aplenty from Members of Parliament (MPs) on the new Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) to redevelop public housing precincts in about 20 years’ time, but fewer answers from Mr Wong on Monday as details of the scheme have to be worked out.

Vers was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last month.

“For Vers going forward, I will not rule out the possibility of having private developers involved and we will study (Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan’s) suggestion carefully,” said Mr Wong. “But let’s be very clear. Our aim is to redevelop public housing estates, so we will ensure that any redevelopment is done in a way that preserves the character of our Housing and Development Board (HDB) towns and supports HDB’s mission to provide affordable and quality homes for Singaporeans.”

[Today, preserving the character of HDB towns may be what we think we want. But it is also possible that we may want different things, that other priorities may rise to the fore. So the aim should not be to preserve the character of our HDB towns, but to meet the needs of Singaporeans and Singaporean community and society in the future.]

Under the current Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers), private developers are involved when parts of some public housing sites taken back for redevelopment have been rezoned for commercial or private housing development, based on the masterplan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The Government needs time to work out details including the extent of coverage of Vers and how the compensation to flat owners will be computed, said Mr Wong.

Bishan-Toa Payoh MP Saktiandi Supaat asked about options available to residents who do not get Vers for their flats, or who do not poll in favour of the scheme.

Mr Wong said they will continue to live in their flats, which would have benefitted from two rounds of upgrading. “If they need a place at the end of the lease, the Government will help them get another flat to live in. It could be a new flat from HDB for those who are eligible; a resale flat on a shorter lease; or a two-room Flexi flat for retirement,” he said.

At the National Day Rally last month, Mr Lee had announced other plans for public housing, such as the extension of the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) to more flats (built up to 1997, in addition to those built up to 1986), and the implementation of a second round of upgrading under HIP 2 when flats are around 60 to 70 years old.

But Vers garnered the most attention amid concerns in the past year over lease decay, as a significant number of public flats approach the halfway mark of their 99-year leases.

Vers will see residents of precincts that are about 70 years into their 99-year leases voting on whether they would like the Government to buy back the flats. The Government will compensate them — at terms less generous than Sers, which is compulsory — and help them get another flat to live in.

Asked by Marsiling-Yew Tee MP Alex Yam how long the study of the scheme’s implementation would take, Mr Wong said he could not provide a specific deadline.

The Government will ensure Vers is rolled out in a fiscally sustainable way, so that it does not become a burden for the next generation, Mr Wong added.

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