Desmond Lee files Ministerial Motion to affirm commitment on affordable public housing in Singapore

Desmond Lee files Ministerial Motion to affirm commitment on affordable public housing in Singapore

SINGAPORE — The National Development Minister, Mr Desmond Lee, has filed a Ministerial Motion, asking Parliament to affirm the importance of keeping public housing affordable and accessible, while protecting the interests of both current and future generations of Singaporeans, and to endorse the Government’s commitment to these twin goals.

This was announced by Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann on her Facebook page on 30 January. Mr Lee, although the minister filing the motion, did not make any statement on this via his social media platforms.

Ms Sim noted that while the motion sounds similar to the motion filed by Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) Hazel Poa and Leong Mun Wai from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), they are not really the same.

“Implicit in the PSP’s motion is the claim that the Government has not done enough to deliver affordable and accessible HDB flats, strengthen the owner-occupation intent of public housing, protect retirement adequacy or keep public housing inclusive. We disagree with this claim.” wrote Ms Sim.

This would suggest that the two motions will be held concurrently as what took place in September last year, where Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong filed a competing motion against Mr Leong’s motion on Singapore’s free trade agreements and its foreign labour policies.

“Keeping public housing affordable and accessible while protecting the interests of both current and future generations of Singaporeans is what the Government has been dedicated to all along. We will once again make this commitment clear to Singaporeans and to Members of the House during the debate. We feel it is better to state the Government’s intent and strategy squarely in a separate motion and debate both together.”

Ms Sim concluded by saying, “My colleagues and I look forward to a substantive debate, setting out the Government’s approach towards public housing, debunking spurious claims, and hearing constructive views and suggestions on how we can continue to fulfil the homeownership aspirations of our citizens now and into the future.”

NCMP Leong files motion on public housing

Mr Leong had earlier announced on 20 January that he filed a motion to debate issues regarding affordable public housing at the next Singapore Parliament sitting in February.

Mr Leong’s motion reads:

That this House calls upon the Government to review its housing policies in order to:
(i) deliver affordable and accessible HDB flats to all Singaporeans,
(ii) strengthen the owner-occupation intent of public housing,
(iii) protect retirement adequacy, and
(iv) keep public housing inclusive to every Singaporean of each generation.

Mr Leong urged the People’s Action Party (PAP) government to be open to alternative ideas, and be transparent about the true situation of Singapore’s public housing.

He also hopes that Members of Parliament from PAP will debate in good faith on the real issues, “instead of misrepresenting my arguments or casting aspersions on my motivations.”

Questions about VERS and proposal to remove land cost from public housing

The rising cost of HDB BTO prices and resale HDB flats has caused much anxiety among Singaporeans over the affordability of public housing.

While the Government has consistently assured citizens that public housing remains affordable, many have questioned its definition of affordability and the sustainability of the public housing policy that has worked over the past couple of decades.

In an adjournment motion last month, Mr Leong raised serious questions about the viability of the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) to address the issue of ageing HDB flats in light of the situation faced by residents affected by the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.

The NCMP expressed dire concerns over the implications for all Singaporeans beyond the residents that are affected and how it will affect the future of their ageing HDB flats, urging the Government to clarify how it intends to compensate residents of VERS in future because Singaporeans need certainty on the lease decay issue as soon as possible.

He also claims that the Government continues to keep silent on the non-viability of VERS by not admitting to the different outcomes of the Ang Mo Kio SERS and the financial plight of the Ang Mo Kio residents.

“The right thing to do, however, is to clarify to Singaporeans whether it would be devising a new compensation formula for VERS or proposing some other solutions for the lease decay problem, which has serious implications on the financial well-being and retirement plans of Singaporeans, especially those who bought older flats in mature estates before the lease decay issue was thrown into the spotlight.”

Mr Leong had also opined that the pricing of flats built by HDB should only account for construction costs and price differences between locations and not include land costs.

“This was arguably the case in the late 1980s, when the total land cost accounted for a substantially lower share of the total price of an HDB flat.” wrote Mr Leong.

In contrast, Mr Leong pointed out that the latest data released by HDB shows land costs accounting for almost 60 per cent of the total cost of building HDB flats.

Responding to Mr Lee’s motion and Ms Sim’s Facebook post, Mr Leong made a Facebook post on Monday evening.

He wrote, “The Government disagrees that it has not done enough to deliver affordable and accessible HDB flats. But if this was true, housing affordability would not be top of mind for many Singaporeans and there would be no need to spend so much Parliamentary time debating this issue, which has generated keen public interest. Singaporeans will be the judge of whether enough has been done to ensure that public housing remains affordable.”

The NCMP had been previously rebutted by Mr Lee and Ms Sim over the points over public housing in Parliament, and sparks are expected to fly during the upcoming dual motions debate in this coming February’s parliamentary sitting.


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