Sunday 29 December 2019

Unwarranted optimism for HDB lease top-ups turns home-buying into gamble

The proposal to provide a feasible solution to older Housing Board flats that face an undetermined fate when their 99-year lease expiry approaches is certainly well-intentioned (HDB reform proposals will further separate resale and BTO markets, Dec 23).

If all these ageing flats are granted amnesty from lease constraints and have their leases topped up - which is easy enough to do but just kicks the can down the road - then similar top-ups must be equitably extended to private housing on leasehold land for the same nominal amount of extension levies.

Otherwise giving one segment of the populace repeated bites of the cherry may be seen as being prejudicial.

It may seem a sham, then, to continue selling HDB properties on a contractual 99-year lease when this number is known to be extendable to the length that citizens can pressure the Government for.

We make informed decisions on investments based on prevailing information and must accept the natural consequences of our calculations. This is so in particular with our biggest investment - the house.

That leasehold properties have a finite shelf-life and whose values must drop beyond 30 or 40 years into the lease is not privileged information, and there is no reason to plead ignorance.

Unwarranted optimism for lease top-ups and wishful punting on the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme cloud decisions, turn home-buying calculations into opportunistic gambles that will sour should the authorities stick to the contractual letter of the law and allow the 99-year leases to lapse.

China, which parcels out land in 20-or 70-year leases, has no clear policy on lease top-ups.

Obviously its problem is far more pressing than ours and there will be a lot to learn and adapt from the strategies it devises.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)
ST Forum, 28 Dec 2019

HDB lease top-up proposals not prudent

Yet again proposals on how to manage the lease decay of HDB flats have been raised (HDB lease top-up proposal has drawbacks: Observers, Dec 17).

I believe this issue is simply a matter of "product specification".

From the date of purchase of any property, the tenure of the property is clearly stated and buyers going in are aware that the lease for leasehold properties will eventually end, and the land will go back to the Government.

Hence, lease expiry is simply a given and it is bewildering why this issue concerning ageing HDB flats should surface time and again.

We are unlike other countries where a lease tenure can be arbitrarily extended to freehold status at a government's whim and fancy, given our country's limited land space.

Furthermore, if there were any lease extension of HDB flats, the cost would ultimately be borne by the Government, taxpayers and future generations.

Instead of exhorting the Government to do a lease top-up at a token cost, it is only prudent, logical and responsible that we allow the expiry of the lease. Singaporeans who want a property that lasts beyond 99 years can always opt to buy a freehold property or a 999-year leasehold property.

Lee Yong Se
ST Forum, 20 Dec 2019

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