On Monday, one lady from Queenstown came all the way to my MPS at Sembawang. She came with her son. She had not slept well since she heard the news that I may stop the resale of HDB flats in the open market, and that all resale would be to HDB only. She wanted to know if she had heard correctly.
She has a fully paid up 3R flat and had booked a new BTO flat in Bukit Panjang which will be ready in a couple of years’ time. She has done her sum and expects to have a sizeable net cash proceeds. That will be her retirement fund. The news that she has heard may squash her dream.
I told her that she has completely misunderstood the media reports on what I said in Parliament! Briefly I told Parliament that there had been many calls for HDB to “return to basics”, for example to “return to the past when flats could only be sold to HDB, and not in the open market”. Such a call would have major impact on existing flat owners, especially the seniors, like her.
We want to provide affordable housing for new homeowners, especially young couples, but we will not forget the interest of the many hundreds of thousands of existing homeowners. Some plan to rely on their flat to finance retirement needs. Some hope to bequeath their flats to the next generation. Some rely on renting out a room to bring in extra cash proceeds. Their concerns matter to me too.
I told her that I do plan to see how we can come up with a new housing option which can be a lot cheaper than today’s BTO price. And if we offer such a low-cost housing option, it must come with restrictions to differentiate it from the existing BTO flats. I mentioned some such restrictions as proposed by some MPs: longer minimum occupation period, shorter lease and no resale in the open market.
Obviously, if we offer such an option, these restrictions of a longer minimum occupation period, or shorter lease or no resale in the open market will only apply to the new buyers, and will not apply to existing flat owners like the Queenstown lady. I assured her that her dream is safe and I congratulate her on how the HDB policies have benefited her, and that she could now look forward to both a new BTO flat (with 99 year lease) and a significant retirement fund.
There must be many like her out there. They have been silent in not voicing their views publicly. I intend to give voice to this majority of flat owners and to invite them to join the Our Singapore Conversation, to articulate their concerns when housing policies are discussed. If the flat owners who form the vast majority remain silent, discussion on housing policies may get wrongly skewed.
She was relieved after I explained to her. She went on to tell me that her son is still single and asked if I could introduce some girl friends to him!
Looks like she will be sleepless no more.
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