Monday 23 December 2019

Government spent $2.9 billion on Home Improvement Programme for HDB flats

As of 31 Oct 2019, 170,400 units have had works done, while 132,300 are undergoing upgrades
By Sue-Ann Tan, The Sunday Times, 22 Dec 2019

The Government has spent about $2.9 billion on the Home Improvement Programme by the Housing Board (HDB) as of 31 March 2019.

As of 31 Oct 2019, about 170,400 flats have had upgrading works completed, while another 132,300 are undergoing the upgrades.

A total of 320,000 flats under the 1986 age-band were selected as eligible to undergo the programme.

These figures were released by the HDB yesterday. It said in a statement that the remaining works will be implemented progressively.

The programme was announced in 2007 to benefit residents and improve their quality of life through enhancing their safety and comfort at home. It focuses on improvements within the flat and helps owners address common maintenance problems related to ageing units in a systematic and comprehensive manner.

The scheme was previously offered to HDB flats built up to 1986 that had not undergone the previous main upgrading programme.

In August last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the programme would be extended to flats built between 1987 and 1997.

This extension will benefit about 230,000 more HDB households.

The programme looks at essential improvements that are related to public health and safety and these are fully paid for by the Government. These include repairing structural cracks, replacing waste or soil discharge stacks, which are parts of pipes, and upgrading the electrical load.

Flat owners can also choose optional improvements and pay for their share of works carried out in their flats. These include new decorative doors, metal grille gates and refuse-chute hoppers.

The programme can proceed only when at least three-quarters of a block's eligible households that are made up of Singapore citizens have voted for it.

There is also an upgrading option for elderly and vulnerable residents who need the programme, or whose blocks do not qualify for it.

This scheme, known as the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme, allows seniors to choose from elderly-friendly fittings such as slip-resistant treatment for existing floor tiles of bathrooms, installation of grab bars in toilets and ramps.

More than 206,000 households have applied for the EASE programme as of Oct 31. The Government has spent about $80 million on the programme as of March 31.

Madam Kwan Kum Lai, 78, had her flat in Hougang upgraded in April under the Home Improvement Programme and the EASE scheme. She has been living there since 1985.

She said: "I was very happy when I heard about these programmes. I know upgrading can be messy and troublesome, but it is very worth it."

Ramps were installed at the entrance of the living room and the kitchen to help Madam Kwan, who is a wheelchair user, enter and leave on her own.

"Previously, my husband had to support me and be on standby all the time. Now the ramps help me to be more independent," she said.

Her husband, Mr Chan Meng Kwong, 79, had suffered a stroke a few years earlier.

Grab bars were also installed in the toilets and the tiles received slip-resistant treatment to make them safer for the couple.

"It used to be very slippery in the bathroom and I was scared my husband would fall," Madam Kwan said. "Now I have more confidence when using the bathroom and I can transfer myself from the wheelchair to the toilet seat with the bars to hold on to."

A full package under the Home Improvement Programme for a household living in a five-room flat like hers would cost about $1,260. The full suite of upgrades under the EASE programme with five single-step ramps would cost another $250.

Another resident who has benefited from the upgrades is housewife Kamariah Mohd, 52, who paid about $1,100 for the renovations, which included the toilet door, wall and floor tiles, the door grille gates and rubbish chute.

"If I went to a private contractor, it would be much more expensive. It was almost two weeks of construction but it was worth it."



HDB to fit ramps for flats with multi-step entrances from 5 December 2018 under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme

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