SINGAPORE: The land currently occupied by 191 private terrace houses at Lorong 3 Geylang will return to the state when its current lease expires on Dec 31, 2020, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) confirmed for the first time on Tuesday (Jun 20).
The land is slated for future public housing, the authority said, adding that this is the first time that a residential plot of land is reaching the end of its lease, without any possibility of renewal.
"As a general policy, leasehold land will return to the state upon lease expiry. This allows the land to be rejuvenated to meet the new social and economic needs of Singaporeans," the SLA said.
The houses along the street are on 60-year leases that started in 1961. When the leases run out onDec 31, 2020, owners have to make sure the properties are cleared of all belongings and furniture, utilities and services are terminated and all outstanding bills are paid. Based on SLA’s records, 60 years is the shortest lease tenure issued by the State for private residential sites in Singapore.
They do not need to demolish or do any works to reinstate the property, the agency clarified.
OWNERS "WILL NOT BE LEFT WITHOUT OPTIONS"
According to SLA, most of the current owners of the terrace houses have moved out and are letting out their units to foreign workers and other occupants who use them for religious activities.
Of the 191 houses, 143 have been leased to foreign workers on work passes and 31 to those conducting religious activities such as temple operators, while 33 are owner occupants, SLA said. It added that some of the homes are counted twice as they have multiple uses.
To assist in the transition, a dedicated SLA officer will be assigned to each house owner, who will guide them through the lease expiry process over the next three and a half years. Those who do not already have alternative housing have various options, including buying an HDB flat or private property, renting on the open market or living with family members.
Under the current rules, the house owners will have to wait 30 months after the sale of their private property before getting a subsidised flat, or if they are getting a non-subsidised flat, must sell their property within six months of getting it. However, HDB is prepared to exercise flexibility, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said.
MND also said that based on current plans, there will be 14 Build-To-Order and seven Sale-of-Balance flat exercises from now until Dec 2020.
SLA added there are existing schemes for elderly homeowners, such as the short-lease 2-Room Flexi flats.
"They will not be left without options," the agency said.
As for employers of foreign work pass holders, these owners can consider relocating their workers to other approved housing such as purpose-built dormitories. The Manpower Ministry will remind employers to relocate their workers closer to the lease expiry date, the agency said.
Occupants currently conducting religious activities in houses on the affected street can consider co-locating with religious organisations operating in other areas or renting space from commercial or industrial premises where part of the space is allowed to be used for religious purposes, SLA added.
DO DUE DILIGENCE WHEN HOUSE HUNTING
While the SLA announcement on Tuesday refers to private housing, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong had in March also said that when leases for Housing and Development Board flats end, the land will return to the state eventually.
He said property buyers need to recognise the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) is not necessarily for all old HDB flats, as it is dependent on the site's redevelopment potential, and prices for these flats will come down in conjunction with the remaining time on the lease.
Mr Wong's comments were in response to local reports highlighting the high prices of several short-lease HDB flats in the resale market.
NEW HOUSING OPTIONS PLANNED
The 2-ha plot of land in Geylang has been earmarked for new public housing development, and is also part of a larger plan to rejuvenate Kallang, SLA said.
The land, about 900m from Kallang MRT and 500m from the new Geylang Bahru MRT set to open in October this year, will offer Singaporeans new public housing options near the city centre in Kallang, the agency noted.
These are in addition to the new public housing developments in Boon Keng, Bendemeer and around Kallang MRT station, as well as new private residences in Kampong Bugis.
SLA's chief executive Tan Boon Khai said: "As a general policy, upon lease expiry, the state land and the property will revert back to the Government. In this case, there are exciting plans to rejuvenate the Kallang area and this site will be slated for public housing."
Since 2008, SLA has renewed the leases of seven private condominiums through en-bloc sales.
Next in line to reach the end of their leases are private houses along Jalan Chempaka Kuning and Jalan Chempaka Puteh off Tanah Merah. Their 70-year lease will expire in 17 years.