SINGAPORE: About 9,200 households have taken up the Housing and Development Board's (HDB) lease buyback scheme since it was introduced in March 2009, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Monday (Nov 7).
Mr Lee was responding to a parliamentary question tabled by MP Liang Eng Hwa (PAP-Bukit Panjang), who also asked about plans to improve and expand the scheme and why some home owners did not take up the scheme.
Under the lease buyback scheme, elderly flat owners can sell a portion of their flat lease to the Government. In return, they receive a stream of income in their retirement years while continuing to live in their flat.
Flat owners can choose to retain the length of their lease based on the age of the youngest owner.
When the scheme was introduced, only owners of three-room or smaller flats were eligible, but it has since been expanded to all flat types.
Mr Lee said that there are various reasons why elderly flat owners may not want to take up the scheme.
This includes having other sources of income to meet their retirement needs, or preferring to take up other monetisation options such as getting a smaller flat or renting out spare rooms in their flat.
"HDB will continue to review the housing needs of our elderly flat owners to ensure that our housing policies remain relevant and responsive to the changing needs and preferences,” Mr Lee added.
On Mr Liang’s query as to how the Government can promote the scheme, Mr Lee said that the numbers “have been growing over the years partly due to greater awareness” but also because of adjustments made to the scheme over the years.
He said that the ministry works with media outlets and organises public talks and seminars in English and vernacular languages. Interested seniors can call the HDB branch service line to arrange an appointment as well, Mr Lee added.
Mr Liang also asked if the ministry could provide assurances to those who are worried they will outlive the remaining 30 years of their lease.
Under the scheme, flat owners can choose to sell 35 years of their lease to HDB, keep the remaining 30 years and get a bonus.
In April 2020, the maximum bonus was increased by 50 per cent across all flat types to $30,000 for three-room and smaller flats, S$15,000 for 4-room flats and S$7,500 for five-room and bigger flats.
Mr Lee said that the Government will work with flat owners who outlive their lease on relevant top-ups so they can continue living in their homes.
He added: “Secondly, that is precisely why we have a home-for-life requirement, so you have to choose the right lease to retain. But that must take you to at least 95 and that provides some assurance.
“Of course, longevity is a blessing and we’ll make sure that for seniors who outlive their lease, with the necessary top-ups and support, we will be able to provide them with housing.”