In a commentary published in the Sunday Times today, columnist Chua Mui Hoong argued that HDB flat lessees enjoy the best of both worlds as they own the flats and can profit from them while HDB as lessor remains super landlord to provide subsidized upgrading throughout the 99 year lease.
Ms Chua opined that the raging debate over HDB flats and whether these are “owned” or merely “leased” from the Government on 99 year leases is driven by a false dichotomy.
Photo by Raphael Koh
In reality, Singaporeans own the lease of the flat as they are able to sell the lease for a profit. At the same time, the government provides heavily subsidised upgrading to maintain the value of the flat which is not available to owners of private properties.
Admitting that the “Asset Enhancement Scheme” propagated by the government may have led to Singaporeans having unrealistic expectations of the inherent value of their HDB flats, Ms Chua felt the government has stepped in at a good time with their offer of Home Improvement Scheme 2 (HIS) and Voluntary En Block Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) to maintain the value of aging HDB flats and to ensure the owners get something out of their investment back instead of nothing when the lease ends.
“To restate the obvious: HDB flat buyers have secure ownership rights, so they can live in them peaceably, sell them and profit from them. But the flats are also leased from the Government for 99 years, and the HDB remains as superior landlord, stepping in to help maintain the value of the flats as they age,” she added.
Ms Chua also expressed hopes that she can retire in an HDB flat:
“This dual identity of HDB flats and assurance that the government will take care of HDB flat buyers, is one reason why I hope to retire in an HDB flat.”