SINGAPORE: With retirement around the corner, 66-year-old Chew Kee Yoke decided he wanted to be “cash rich and asset poor”.
That is why when his daughter moved out of the family’s five-room Housing & Development Board (HDB) flat in Bukit Batok, he and his wife sold their home for about S$500,000.
They moved into a 35-year lease two-room Flexi flat in the same area last year.
It cost about S$100,000, leaving them with a tidy sum - part of which Mr Chew plans to invest.
The part-time security guard and taxi driver said: “As you age, your income is going to go down. You cannot expect to have a pay like previously, so that’s why you need to have cash to keep you going.”
Another reason for moving was that it became harder to clean a large flat as he grows older, he added.
Since two-room Flexi flats were introduced in 2015, more than half of such new units have been booked by seniors like Mr Chew.
These flats, ranging from 36 sq m to 46 sq m, offer elderly buyers flexible lease lengths from 15 to 45 years and senior-friendly features.
Families and singles can also buy them, but only on a standard 99-year lease.
MORE THAN HALF OF FLATS BOOKED BY ELDERLY BUYERS
As of Dec 31, 2020, about 34,700 two-room Flexi flats have been offered for sale, said HDB in a media release on Saturday (Feb 27).
Based on selection exercises that have been completed, 84 per cent of 29,924 units offered have been booked.
Of these, 56 per cent, or 14,153 units were booked by elderly buyers aged 55 and above.
About 38 per cent or 9,429 units were booked by singles, who can only buy such units in non-mature estates.
Meanwhile, families made up about 6 per cent, or 1,607 of these units.
Among the elderly buyers, about 92 per cent, or 13,081, chose short-lease flats while the rest opted for 99-year leases.
The 40-year lease option was the most popular at 4,046 units booked. This was followed by the 35- and 30-year lease options, at 3,526 and 2,291 units respectively, HDB said.
These trends were consistent with previous years’ figures.
The shortest lease of 15 years also saw 215 takers, with HDB noting that the oldest buyer to choose this was 99 years old at the point of flat application.
TWO-ROOM FLEXI FLATS WITH FLEXIBLE SPACE
Since February 2020, HDB has progressively introduced two-room Flexi flats with a flexible space.
“The 46 sq m flat layout allows for flexible use of space, such as a dining area, a study, or to place an extra bed,” the Housing Board said.
Elderly buyers of these flats can opt for the Optional Component package, which includes a folding door among other senior-friendly fittings.
As of Dec 31, 2020, about 2,100 such units with flexible space have been offered.
Selections are still under way for the August and November sales exercises last year. But for the 666 such units offered in the February 2020 Build-to-Order (BTO) exercise, 70 per cent have been booked by elderly applicants, HDB said.
Among them, 278 opted for the Optional Component package.
HDB also noted that since the February sales exercise this year, these flats with flexible space have replaced the previous 45 sq m flats.
Seniors buying two-room Flexi flats can also apply for the Silver Housing Bonus, which was introduced in 2013 and enhanced last year.
It gives seniors up to S$30,000 as a cash bonus when they sell their existing flat, move into a three-room or smaller flat, and use the proceeds to top-up their CPF Retirement Account.
As of Dec 31, 2020, 970 households have benefitted from this bonus, HDB said.
MORE OPTIONS FOR SENIORS
To give seniors more options for housing, a new type of public housing with elderly-friendly features and subscription to care services was launched in this February’s BTO exercise.
HDB said it received a total of 706 applications for the 169 Community Care Apartment units on offer.
In the meantime, more two-room Flexi flats will continue to be launched islandwide.
“For the upcoming May and August 2021 sales exercises, flat buyers can look forward to two-room Flexi flats on offer in Geylang, Hougang, Jurong East, Tampines, Tengah and Woodlands,” HDB said.