Govt looking at flexible options for lease buyback

Govt looking at flexible options for lease buyback

ELDERLY flat owners who opt for the Lease Buyback Scheme may be given the option to retain more or fewer years on their flat's lease, in a bid to make the scheme more flexible.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said this yesterday during a post-National Day Rally dialogue for youth in Sembawang GRC, adding that his ministry is set to announce changes to the scheme this week.

Currently, under the scheme, retirees retain 30 years of the lease on their flat and sell the remaining period to the Housing Board in return for monthly payouts.

The proceeds can be used to top up their Central Provident Fund (CPF) Retirement Account for annuity payouts.

But depending on when they join the scheme, said Mr Khaw, some seniors may find the 30- year lease too long or too short. For example, those who join when they are younger may worry about outliving the lease period, while those who join when they are older, say at 80 years old, may find the 30-year period too long. To address these concerns, he said the Government could vary the period of the lease that it buys back.

He suggested, for example, a 35-year period for those who sell part of the lease back at 65 years old, so that it would last until they are 100 years old. Someone who joins the scheme late may be able to sell the Government a longer part of his lease to get a bigger payout, he said.

His comments yesterday followed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement during his National Day Rally speech last month that the Lease Buyback Scheme will be extended to owners of four-room flats as well, as part of the larger push to make sure that Singaporeans have enough for retirement.

Mr Khaw said that this makes about 75 per cent of seniors eligible for the scheme, compared with about 35 per cent previously when it was limited to owners of smaller flats.

At a separate dialogue in Pasir Ris-Punggol yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean was asked why the scheme was not extended to include even larger flats. Mr Teo, the Coordinating Minister for National Security and the Home Affairs Minister, said the scheme is meant for retirees who want to continue living in their own flats.

He added: "We don't need to encourage people to stay in flats which are much bigger than they really need." Those with larger flats, he said, can consider other alternatives to get income, such as renting out their flat or downsizing to a smaller one.

At the Sembawang event, Mr Khaw was asked if Sembawang is slated for large-scale development projects, like those in Jurong highlighted in Mr Lee's National Day Rally speech this year.

Mr Khaw said the Government had "massive plans" for the development of the North, and that facilities at Sembawang will be ramped up as the population grows.

Noting that there have been requests for sports facilities, he said a site has been found and the details will be announced in a few months.

Sembawang town is still relatively small, Mr Khaw said, and flats were being built over the last three years to grow its population. Business undergraduate Han Dong, 25, who was at the dialogue, said he was glad that the concerns of young people were on the Government's mind.

yanliang@sph.com.sg


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