Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee, told Parliament on Monday that the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) is not “a failure”, despite the recent spate of complaints from home buyers.
Mr Lee was responding to questions from six Members of Parliament (MP) who queried his ministry on various issues regarding the flats under the DBSS and the Build-To-Order (BTO) schemes.
In recent months, complaints have surfaced from homeowners at the Trivelis in Clementi, Centrale 8 in Tampines and Pasir Ris One DBSS flats. These ranged from leaking pipes to uneven tiles, from poorly-installed windows to cracks on walls.
At Pasir Ris ONE, there have also been unhappiness over the narrow corridors which barely met the safety and evacuation guidelines laid down by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF); and also poorly designed gas vents and ducts which have raised questions about safety.
Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said that while the HDB views quality seriously, “due to the high dependency on workmanship of individual workers, we can expect that there will be some defects”.
While revealing that an average of one-third of all new residents have approached the Building Service Centre (BSC) for assistance with defects in BTO flats after collecting their keys, Mr Lee said that many of these defects were “surface imperfections”, and that the quality of flats remained high.
He cited an “independent assessment” of building quality by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), known as the Construction Quality Assessment System score, which showed that BTO flat quality has in fact improved, with scores rising from 79 in 2003 to 89 last year.
“It continues to rise and is comparable to that in private developments,” he said.
Mr Lee, however, said there were no similar statistics for DBSS flats as residents would register complaints with the BSC managed by private developers during the Defects Liability Period (DLP).
What then is the role of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in such instances where residents face these workmanship issues?
This was a question raised by Mr David Ong (Jurong GRC) and Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC), while Workers’ Party MO, Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC), asked if HDB takes responsibility to ensure DBSS defects are rectified.
In his reply, Mr Lee said that the responsibility lies with the private developer, as the sale and purchase agreement is between residents and the developer.
Developers are also required to address defects within a month of being notified.
If they do not, the buyer can give notice, get it fixed and then make a claim for reimbursement, Mr Lee said.
Nonetheless, Mr Lee said that the HDB would still be involved in such situations.
He said, for example, that the HDB “worked behind the scenes” with the developer of the Trivelis DBSS development in Clementi to seek a solution to the residents’ woes.
When asked Mr Yee Jenn Jong if the DBSS, which was supposed to provide better design and finishings and which are priced at a premium above normal flats, had failed to meet the higher aspirations of higher-income homeowners, Mr Lee said:
“Not to trivialise the defects and concerns that first-time home buyers in particular feels … but I think you shouldn’t … use these current few points that have been in the public eye to condemn the entire scheme as a failure. Many people have indeed lived and made homes in these projects.”
The government has suspended the DBSS programme since 2011.