SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set out on Friday (Aug 24) why home ownership is a key national policy, saying it gives every Singaporean a stake in the country and has improved lives significantly for all.
On the issue of 99-year Housing Board (HDB) leases, Mr Lee refuted the notion that the lease is "merely an extended rental" and not a sale.
He said he found the argument by some commentators "frankly amazing", as many private properties are also held on 99-year leases but no one argues they are merely being rented.
"HDB lessees have all the rights over their flats that owners of such leasehold private properties have. You can live in it, you can transact it, you can bequeath it to your children - it is yours," said Mr Lee, at a book launch held at the National University of Singapore.
In fact, HDB owners enjoy extra privileges, because their flats get upgraded from time to time with generous government funding, he added.
While Mr Lee did not name the commentators he was referring to, The Straits Times had published a commentary on Aug 14 by International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong, who recommended "that we be honest with ourselves and recognise that we are merely lessees who rent the HDB flats for their terms".
Public housing was one of the hot-button issues Mr Lee addressed at the National Day Rally on Sunday, when he announced several long-term housing initiatives in response to concerns over expiring HDB leases.