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Government mulls changes to Land Acquisition Bill

Removal of Betterment Levy, which could allow landowners to receive better compensation should their land be acquired by the Government, is one of the amendments proposed.

SINGAPORE: The Government has tabled amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill, potentially paving the way for landowners to be better compensated when the authorities acquire part of their land for development.

It is proposing to remove the Betterment Levy, which is a levy placed on the compensation a landowner gets because of the perceived gain in the value of the remaining land after the acquired land has been developed.

For example, if the land in front of an owner's home is acquired for the development of an MRT station, any increase in the value of the remaining land - because of the proximity of a train station in future - will be deducted from the compensation given for the acquired land. The imposition of the Betterment Levy has resulted in some landowners given only nominal compensation in the past.

The Law Ministry said affected landowners will stand to receive better statutory compensation once the removal of the levy is in effect.

Other proposed changes to the law include enabling Management Corporation Strata Title developments to act on behalf of individual unit owners in the acquisition of common property. Under current laws when, say, car park lots in a condominium are acquired, every unit owner must go through the entire acquisition process - from engaging a valuer to submitting claims - even if the units are not affected.

The Law Ministry said this results in inconvenience. The last major changes to the Land Acquisition Act were made in 2007.Lawyers say abolishing the betterment levy would create feelings of fairness for land owners whose properties are being acquired, because it means the Government recognises the property belongs to them.

"A lot of the land owners, when their properties are being compulsorily acquired, they will feel that: 'Look, it's not my fault that you want to compulsory acquire my land. I don't have a choice in this, I don't have a say in this.' And as such, when you impose a betterment levy on me, it's really something that's not my fault. And you are imposing a levy on me," explained Mr Steven Lam, Director of Templars Law.

He said it can give people the feeling that authorities have not taken into consideration issues such as how when public facilities are being built, "it's going to create problems, it's going to create a nuisance, it's going to create things which affect me." 

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