Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Seletar Camp residents quit after rent hike

A GROUP of Seletar Camp tenants, many of them long-term residents, have chosen to move out en masse because of a steep increase in rent.

About 15 out of 47 affected households, mostly clustered around Mornington Crescent, Edgware Road and Sussex Gardens, have decided not to renew their leases after their landlord, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), trebled their rent.

Motorcycle-riding instructor Soh Leng Huat, whose family has lived there for 12 years, was told in September that upon renewing his lease in January, his rent would be $3,900 instead of the usual $1,200 per month.

As a result of the rent hike, units are emptying out in a neighbourhood coveted for its unique bucolic feel.

These homes are unaffected by the upcoming aerospace hub, with construction resulting in nearly half of the 378 black-and- white colonial homes in Seletar Camp to be razed.

The 47 households are among a growing number of people living in government-owned properties who have been hit with drastically increased rents recently.

In December, residents at Chip Bee Gardens in Holland Village petitioned their landlord, JTC Corporation, after their rents nearly doubled.

The Seletar residents have followed in their footsteps and 31 residents sent a petition to SLA requesting lower rents earlier this year, questioning the SLA's timing.

Said musician Rick Smith, a 56-year-old Singapore permanent resident: 'The government said that in times of difficulty, they would help to reduce the crunch. But here you have residents, some of whom have had pay cuts, who have seen increased rent for government- owned property.'
In response, the SLA's spokesman said that the statutory board, which oversees land use in Singapore, charges rent 'based on the prevailing market rate'.

The Straits Times understands that there is usually a one-month gap between valuation and the SLA's decision on the new rate.

The spokesman added that it has reacted to the recent softening of the property market by lowering guide rents for available Seletar Camp units by 40 per cent in the last six months.

After the tenants' appeal, the SLA reduced rent by between a few hundred dollars and a thousand dollars in some cases.

But such concessions are not enough for those walking out, as they say that they still cannot afford the revised rates.

Source: Straits Times, 7 April 2009

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