'Doesn't really make a difference': Ang Mo Kio SERS residents shrug at chance to apply for BTO flat in the estate
Affected residents were sent an email by HDB to inform them that 10% of the available units at the new BTO project at Ang Mo Kio Central would be set aside for them.
SINGAPORE: Residents at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 whose blocks were selected for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) have been offered the option to apply for a new flat at a BTO project at Ang Mo Kio Central, but some residents are not sold on the idea.
Among those who spoke to CNA on Monday (Aug 8), some said the flats at the BTO site, which is said to be more accessible, would be pricier. Others were worried about whether they would forfeit their priority for a unit at the SERS replacement site next to ITE College Central, should they be unable to secure a BTO at Ang Mo Kio Central.
Residents were informed of the new option in a letter via email on Aug 5.
In the letter sent by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), which was seen by CNA, they were told that 10 per cent of the units at the Ang Mo Kio BTO site – Central Weave @ AMK – would be set aside for them.
This 10 per cent priority allocation comes under the Resettlement/Relocation/Tenants’ Priority Scheme.
Residents were also told that they could use their SERS rehousing benefits to apply for a flat at the Ang Mo Kio BTO site. The benefits include a SERS grant of S$30,000, if eligible, HDB said in response to CNA’s queries about the allocation of flats.
HDB said in its letter that it extended the offer to them after some residents expressed interest in the Ang Mo Kio BTO project. It also noted that the project's Delivery Possession Date (DPD) is estimated to be within 2029.
The existing designated replacement site next to ITE College Central has a DPD of Mar 31, 2029.
The DPD is the date by which HDB is legally required to hand over the keys to residents.
Residents were also told they could enjoy the 10 per cent priority allocation quota and their SERS rehousing benefits at three other BTO projects in the upcoming August BTO exercise. These projects – Keat Hong Grange (Choa Chu Kang), Woodlands South Plains (Woodlands) and Sun Plaza Spring (Tampines) – were offered because they have the same estimated delivery time frame as the ITE College Central site.
QUESTIONS ABOUT PRIORITY FOR REPLACEMENT SITE
A 39-year-old resident who only wanted to be known as Lynn was concerned that flat prices at the Ang Mo Kio BTO site would be “much higher”.
"The Ang Mo Kio BTO site is very near to the MRT. Very convenient. The ITE College Central site is not so convenient although they said there are buses going to the MRT,” she noted.
“And HDB only allocates 10 per cent (to us). But if we can’t get a flat there, when we want to go back to the ITE site, will we still be at the front of the queue?”
Another resident, who gave his name as Crispin, shared the same concerns.
“If I apply the BTO then never win, then I want to go back (to the ITE site), what is my status there? What if I apply for the BTO then no chance already for this (ITE site)? You need to be clear. Can you give (residents) the reassurance that if you lose, you still win?” said the 58-year-old who works in engineering.
“I don’t want to gamble (on) this one, because at the end of the day, I might need to find a whole other house.”
Regardless of the site, Crispin said he would still need to wait about five years for his new flat. “If you say I will get a new house next month, then okay, there is a difference,” he said.
If the number of applications HDB receives is within 10 per cent of the allocated flat supply, all applicants will be able to book a flat and the selection order will be decided in a ballot.
"Should there be more applicants than the 10 per cent set aside, those who are not balloted within the 10 per cent quota under the priority scheme, will get another chance of being balloted together with the public applicants," HDB said in response to queries.
"The order in which the SERS flat owners are invited to select a flat will be decided in a ballot with the public applicants."
HDB added: "For SERS flat owners who choose to buy a new flat elsewhere under a BTO or SBF exercise, or open booking, and subsequently do not carry on with the application after being shortlisted, they will be placed at the back of the selection queue if they wish to take up a new flat at the designated replacement site."
The replacement site is estimated to yield about 1,065 flats, which is "more than sufficient" to rehouse the 606 households at Blocks 562 to 565 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, said HDB.
"Thus, all Ang Mo Kio SERS flat owners should be able to get a unit at the replacement site."
AMENITIES AVAILABLE AT REPLACEMENT SITE
In the letter to residents, HDB acknowledged concerns about available amenities near to and within the designated replacement site next to ITE College Central.
“(The replacement site) currently has a supermarket, shops, and food and beverage outlets. The Cheng San Neighbourhood Centre, which has a wet market, hawker centre, and a wide range of neighbourhood shops, is also a five-minute walk away. This is a neighbourhood centre that many of you are already familiar with,” stated HDB.
In addition, within the replacement site itself, HDB added that there will be commercial facilities including an eating house and shops, a childcare centre, a kidney dialysis centre, and a Resident’s Network Centre.
“In terms of connectivity, the (replacement site) is served by several bus services to Ang Mo Kio Town Centre, Ang Mo Kio and Yio Chu Kang MRT stations, and other parts of Singapore,” said HDB.
“We have also touched base with colleagues from other agencies for transport and accessibility planning. While the replacement site may be the first plot of land to be developed in the area, some of the surrounding areas are also zoned for housing and will be developed over time. Hence, we would like to assure you that the replacement site will not be an isolated precinct standing on its own, and the area will continue to be improved.”
Meanwhile, some residents still lament having to move at all.
In a speech to move the adjournment motion by Member of Parliament Nadia Ahmad Samdin (PAP-Ang Mo Kio) on Jul 4, she noted that the SERS announcement had been “a destabilising event” for some of her residents. Concerns include having to cough up extra money to buy a replacement flat of the same size.
And on Aug 1, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai submitted a petition in Parliament asking to impose a moratorium on SERS and review how compensation and relocation options are given to affected residents.
Whichever site Royston Albert’s parents-in-law, who are the current owners of their unit at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, choose “doesn’t really make a difference”, said the 41-year-old operations manager who works in the shipping industry.
“What we initially thought was a one to one exchange for the same size, same amenities and everything. Then as time went by, we realised they’re actually selling (the flats at the designated replacement site) on the current market price. And then the evaluation of this house also needs to be taken into consideration,” he told CNA.
“Where are these people going to go for that top-up? All of them are retired.”
For a 50-year-old resident who only wanted to be known as Khim, it would have been better if it was a “voluntary en bloc”. She was referring to the relatively new scheme, Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS), which was announced in 2018. Its details have yet to be confirmed.
She, too, saw no difference between the Ang Mo Kio BTO site and the ITE College Central site.
“(This whole situation is) a bit rude to me. To have a compulsory boot-out, that’s really rude. That’s my whole feeling about it. I didn’t ask for it,” she said.
“There’s also a psycho emotional aspect pegged to SERS, unlike (the) voluntary (scheme), which money can’t replace.”