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More choice for Sers flat owners

THE Government has given a boost to Housing Board homeowners affected by en bloc redevelopment of their estates.

They will now be given priority in the selection of any Build-To-Order (BTO) flat across the island, instead of just the replacement flats allocated to them near their current homes.

They will also receive concessions which could ease their financial burden in purchasing their new flats.

These include paying a lower resale levy upfront in some cases, or opting to defer payment of the entire sum. Resale levy is payable when an HDB homeowner buys a second subsidised flat from the Government.

Those above 55 will also be able to seek permission to dip into their Central Provident Fund (CPF) Retirement Accounts – a pool of money previously reserved strictly for their retirement needs – should their current finances prove insufficient.

The Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) came under the spotlight in recent months after the Government announced it would acquire Rochor Centre in order to lengthen the southern stretch of the North-South Expressway.

The move affects 567 homeowners, some of whom have been living there for decades, as well as 187 shops andeating places.

Some residents have expressed reservations about moving into replacement flats reserved for them in Kallang, saying they are pricey and not an equivalent substitute for their centrally located homes.

Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang GRC Denise Phua has also weighed in on the issue, asking the Government to provide higher compensation.

In a statement to The Straits Times, HDB said it ‘regularly reviews its policies and processes to ensure they remain relevant and meet the needs of residents’.

‘Taking into consideration feedback from our residents, HDB has recently reviewed and enhanced the various concessions to make the Sers package more favourable,’ it added.

Under Sers, selected older buildings are redeveloped to make the best use of land. Owners get market-value compensation and are allocated a new replacement flat in a nearby location.

With the new rule changes, up to 5per cent of all upcoming BTO launches islandwide are reserved for selection by such homeowners before anyone else.

They will get the same discount off the price of these flats as they are getting on the replacement flats, which is 20per cent subject to a cap of $30,000.

Should Sers residents still be unable to get a new BTO flat by the end of the grace period, they can fall back on the replacement flats which have already been set aside for them.

Another key change is that they can opt to defer the payment of any applicable resale levy, which can range from $15,000 to $50,000 depending on flat type, until they sell or transfer their flats.

If they decide to pay the levy upfront, some may get a discount on it because HDB will now cap the upfront payment at $30,000.

Besides Rochor Centre residents, the changes will apply to other announced Sers projects in Clementi Avenue5, East Coast Road, Redhill Close and Boon Lay Drive.

All in, 2,553 households will stand to gain.

An analyst commented that they were a practical approach to minimising the problems felt by affected residents. They could also be a sign of things to come.

Our public housing is ageing. And as the years go by, more and more estates will be subjected to Sers to make the best use of the land. This will lessen the pain felt by Sers residents.

The deferment of the entire resale levy will also be welcome, as not everyone – particularly the elderly – will have the liquidity to pay the resale levy upfront.

Source: The Straits Times – 15 March 2012

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