July 17, 2022

Most affected home owners satisfied with Sers scheme

By brit

SINGAPORE – Madam Leong Chui Hwa was worried at first when her three-room Housing Board flat in West Coast Road was picked for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) in 2016.

But the 66-year-old housewife, who has lived there for more than 20 years, was relieved when she secured a new three-room flat of the same size without having to top up any cash to buy it.

Her 68 sq m replacement flat in West Coast Crescent, about 1km away, is slated to be completed in the third quarter of next year.

Under Sers, owners of affected flats are offered monetary compensation for their units as well as a replacement flat with a new 99-year lease built at a designated site.

“I don’t think Sers is a bad thing. With the price of homes increasing over the years, we are blessed to be able to get a newer one without having to pay extra,” Madam Leong told The Sunday Times. Her flat was about 37 years into its lease at the time it was picked for redevelopment.

But not everyone has been as fortunate. Owners at four HDB blocks in Ang Mo Kio that were selected for Sers in April were dismayed when they learnt that they would have to make up the difference in the cost of similar-sized replacement units.

ERA Realty’s head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said the reaction may have stemmed from residents not realising such substantial cash top-ups are sometimes needed.

“Topping up is not unusual for Sers,” he noted. Still, the home owners might have expected to get more for their properties. “The flats there are around 43 years old and are located near the expressway – that could have affected their valuation,” he said.

Home owners may have had higher expectations for their flat valuations, given that resale flat prices have been rising, agreed OrangeTee & Tie senior vice-president of research and analytics Christine Sun.

In response, HDB announced two new rehousing options: a shorter 50-year lease on the replacement flats, making them more affordable, and a lease buyback scheme for owners’ existing flats.

Sers has been traditionally thought of as striking the lottery in getting a new subsidised flat, but a West Coast resident who wanted to be known only as Madam Chew was in two minds about it.

“I think it is unnecessary trouble as we are used to living here. My husband is also not able to move around easily, so moving will be a challenge,” said the 80-year-old housewife, who has lived in a three-room flat there for over 40 years.

But Madam Chew added that she did not need to top up for a similar-sized replacement flat, and the fresh 99-year lease was a perk. “With the longer lease, my husband and I can now leave the flat for our two sons,” she said.