'Holistic support system' required as S$30,000 grant receives mixed reviews from HDB homeowners without direct lift access
SINGAPORE: At 66, Mr Osman Omar has to climb two flights of stairs between his third-floor flat to get to the lift on the fourth floor. This requires some physical effort as he has asthma and a leg that aches.
His block at Jurong West is one of 150 blocks where the Lift Upgrading Programme - which was introduced in 2001 to provide residents with direct lift access on every floor - has not been implemented due to prohibitive costs or site constraints.
That direct access is essential for day-to-day living for residents like him, said Mr Osman.
“We have been waiting many, many years (for a lift). At our age, we have to go up and go down … Sometimes if you carry things (it’s also a) problem,” he told CNA.
But a new grant could help. On Mar 4, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced that the Government will offer a S$30,000 Lift Access Housing Grant, for those with mobility or medical issues, to buy a new or resale flat with direct lift access.
When CNA visited several flats with no direct lift access, residents were happy to hear of the grants, although they hesitated when asked if they would make use of it.
While Mr Osman said that he would like to use the grant to move into a flat with direct lift access, he was worried about the cost of buying another flat. This is given that he is retired and no longer earns an income.
Instead, “the best thing is if they do upgrading”, he said.
Other residents CNA spoke to also said that they would wait and see.
Although 72-year-old Yeoh Cheng Sin was “happy” to hear about the grants, she said that she would wait to see if there would be an en-bloc for her flat before making a decision.
In any case, she and her 73-year-old husband would wait till they are at least 80 before thinking of moving, she said.
“Now we are still okay, but in a few years, I don’t know,” said the retiree, who lives in another Jurong West HDB block. She has been living in her current flat for 30 years.
Mr Yee, who lives on the 11th floor of the same block, said that while he was not opposed to moving, the problem was looking for a flat to move to. While he said that he was currently still fit, he probably would not be able to climb the stairs in a few years.
“The problem is - where do I move?” he said, adding that he did not want to move from his larger flat to a 1- or 2-room flat, as it would be too small.
“If we can stay in our old homes, it would be best.”
DIRECT LIFT ACCESS ESSENTIAL
Social workers and organisations working with seniors and persons with disabilities told CNA that having direct lift access is crucial.
“For seniors who are still fit and healthy, it may not be an issue. Many seniors are still fit in their 60s and 70s. However, in the 80s and 90s, there is definitely a further decline in strength and fitness for many,” said Mr Teo Tee Loon, executive director of Lakeside Family Services.
Lakeside Family Services provides services to underprivileged children, youths, families and elderly in the Jurong area.
“Direct lift access would therefore be very helpful to every person at some point in time, when they reach that stage of life,” he said.
READ: More housing support for seniors and unwed parents; Re-Offer of Balance Flats exercise to be scrapped
Chief executive officer of SPD Abhimanyau Pal, said that direct lift access allows those with mobility challenges to be able to get to school, work and access services like medical care. It is also “essential” when quick evacuation is necessary.
SPD is a local charity supporting persons with disabilities.
“A barrier-free environment can help persons with disabilities regain a sense of mobility, empowerment and self-reliance,” said Mr Pal.
But while the S$30,000 grant can “relieve some of (the) financial burdens” involved in purchasing a new flat with lift access, more could be done, he added.
Some residents may need more help in purchasing and moving to a new flat, such as assessing the accessibility of the new location, or help with financial planning.
"This is necessary for persons who have limited resources and need help in understanding, navigating resources and decision-making," he said.
Nevertheless, relocation is often “a last resort”, as it is a “drastic change” for residents.
“A holistic support system may therefore be required to help persons with disabilities to explore different options before deciding to move,” said Mr Pal.