Thursday, August 20, 2009

Subsidy use, not age ... decides who gets priority for HDB flats

GIVEN the pressing housing needs of an elderly population, the Government may want to consider giving the elderly priority when it comes to allocating new HDB flats, such as setting aside a proportion of such flats for them.

Such schemes, similar to those used in Hong Kong, could help meet the needs of Singapore's changing demographics, suggested Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) in Parliament yesterday.

In response, Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Maliki Osman said that priority for new HDB flats is given to first-time buyers regardless of age, rather than buyers who have already benefited from public housing schemes, in order to be fair.

About 4 per cent of new flat applicants in HDB's Built-to-Order (BTO) exercises last year were 55 years or older.

There are already specific housing schemes that are geared towards the elderly, stressed Dr Maliki.

He pointed to the popular studio apartments with elderly-friendly features specially for those aged over 55, which had a near-100 per cent take-up rate.

Further options for the elderly to unlock the value of their flats such as relaxing rules to allow the elderly to sublet their flats ,while simultaneously living with their children, and the Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) are also available as an alternative options.

In the case of Dr Lim's Hong Kong example, the flats in question are actually rental flats, Dr Maliki said.

"In terms of allocation of rental flats, we have put in place certain criteria with respect to the uniqueness of the housing policies that we have," he added.

And while Dr Lim suggested allocating flats near the lifts for the elderly, Dr Maliki said that unit allocation would be complex.

In addition, he noted the fact that there have been no requests from elderly flat purchases for units right next to lifts.

He added that as a result of the lift-upgrading programme, most of the elderly now have access to lifts as they are on every floor.

Overall, the system will be able to weigh in favour of those who have not had their first flat, while still providing the elderly with varied housing options and schemes to meet their economic needs, Dr Maliki said.

Source: Today, 20 Aug 2009

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