Tweak schemes so seniors get more cash

The enhanced LBS does not favour flat owners as they are required to sell the whole lease to the HDB first and buy back 30 years' lease at HDB's offered price. Flat owners should instead be allowed to keep their 30-year lease and sell the tail end to the HDB at higher prices, which would take into account future asset appreciation.

SINGAPORE - I sympathise with retirees living in three-room flats who have to endure unnecessary hassles by renting out a room to meet living and medical expenses ("Only one in 10 seniors rents out room or flat"; June 7).

The Government should give a gentle lift to seniors, who have contributed to Singapore's economic miracle ("Schemes to monetise flats 'can be simpler'"; June 7).

The Silver Housing Bonus and Enhanced Lease Buyback schemes (LBS) are good concepts to help seniors who fall through the cracks unlock the value from their asset.

But both schemes have not attracted as many of the 254,000 HDB flat owners aged 55 and older as expected.

Perhaps the biggest bugbear is the channelling of net proceeds to top up the Retirement Account and the $139,000 Central Provident Fund Minimum Sum based on today's income level.

This is the wrong yardstick to use for workers whose incomes were earned in the 1960s.

Workers from those times who bought three-room or smaller HDB flats were people whose earnings and savings were limited. Their lifestyle and basic needs are also different from today's workforce. They deserve different kinds of help.

The Silver Housing Bonus scheme is complicated and restrictive. Downgrading involves moving to unfamiliar places, and retiree couples can keep no more than $100,000 in cash to qualify for the $20,000 bonus.

The rest goes to meet the Minimum Sum requirement to buy two CPF Life annuities.

The Government should consider letting couples have extra cash by allowing them to buy one CPF Life annuity that meets their needs. The enhanced LBS does not favour flat owners. Why should they need to sell the whole lease to the HDB first and then buy back 30 years' lease at the HDB's offered price?

It should be the other way round, where flat owners keep their 30-year lease and sell the tail end to the HDB at higher prices, which would take into account future asset appreciation.

There should also be a clause to say that leasees who live longer than 30 years will be allowed to continue living in the flat.

For the example of retiree Kwek Joo Heng in the article ("Lease buyback scheme leaves retiree $130k richer"; April 14), if the transaction was such that he kept 30 years of his lease and sold the remaining 40 years to the HDB, he would have got more than $170,000.

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