SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the ruling People’s Action Party(PAP) government had promised that all Housing Development Board (HDB) flats would be both good homes and valuable nest eggs for retirement.
He acknowledged that some towns may be more popular than others, but emphasized that every HDB flat would be a good home and a valuable investment.
“This is the PAP government’s promise to all Singaporeans: that your HDB flat will be both a good home for you and your family, and a valuable nest egg for your retirement.”
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Chong Pang City integrated development on Sunday (26 Mar), he said the government’s commitment is to provide high-quality public housing in the country.
“We strive very hard to make all our new towns, all our HDB towns highly liveable,” Mr Lee said.
He added that the new Chong Pang City development, which is due to be completed in 2027, is an example of the government’s efforts to rejuvenate older neighbourhoods and provide modern amenities to meet the needs of residents.
Mr Lee also highlighted the government’s efforts to ensure that all HDB towns, whether old or new, are of high quality.
“Whether the town is very popular or very very popular, every town and HDB, every estate you live in, you can be assured that it is well-planned, well-appointed, well maintained: with amenities, schools, clinics, hawker centres, kopitiams, sport facilities, good transport connectivity, not just within the town with shuttle bus services, but expressways, MRT lines to the rest of Singapore.”
Mr Lee also claimed that achieving a uniformly pleasant urban environment is a challenge that most cities struggle with.
“If you go to most cities, you will see that some areas are very nice, that is where the tour guide will take you, but there will be other areas which you may not see as a tourist — neighbourhoods left behind without much amenities, dilapidated or run down, or inconvenient to live in because it is a long journey to commute to work or to school.”
Affordability of HDB housing, a top concern for Singaporeans in recent years
The recent high transaction price for the HDB resale flat has shocked Singaporeans, expressing concern over the affordability of prices for the new HDB BTO project.
For those in the lower income range and young Singaporeans in the future, they may not have enough money left for retirement or their children’s university education after paying off a 99-year lease loan and interest.
As an example, the HDB recently launched 4,428 BTO flats, including a 3-room flat in Ulu Pandan Glades priced between S$372,000 and S$498,000.
Recently, a 1,206 sq ft HDB 5-room BTO flat at Sengkang, which has recently completed its five-year Mandatory Occupation Period was sold for S$928,000.
Some are concerned that prices may continue to rise at a fast pace, making it difficult for younger Singaporeans to afford a home.
Narrative of HDB as retirement-nest being contested by AMK SERS
PM Lee’s Facebook post follows a narrative that has been repeated over the years by PAP to ensure that flat buyers should treat their HDB flats as a form of investment.
However, this narrative has been contested by the recent controversy over the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS), where residents at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 are being forced out of their 43-year-old flats and having to fork out additional cash or CPF funds to purchase a replacement flat of equivalent size and convenience.
So instead of serving as a retirement nest as described by PM Lee, seniors at AMK have to spend money out of their own pocket to relocate, refurbish and resettle themselves in a new environment without benefitting from proceeds from the sale of their HDB flats.
This is especially ironic given that this falls under PM Lee’s own constituency where some residents are given the impression that they have no choice but to “suck it up”.
Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Leong Mun Wai, has pointed out in an adjournment motion that this is the first time in HDB history that residents selected for SERS must top-up cash to get an equivalent replacement flat with a new 99-year lease.
This was confirmed by Mr Leong during the deliberations of the Public Petitions Committee via questions to the Ministry for National Development (MND) for past examples of SES where the residents had needed to top-up cash for an equivalent flat with a new 99-year lease.
The situation seen in AMK Ave 3 will likely get worse for many in the future as senior HDB owners see the value of their flats depreciate as the value of new flats gets more expensive.