Downgrade or sublet? What’s the point if retirees cannot make progress in life

Singapore Democrats

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in a Facebook post yesterday that older flats “can still be a retirement asset.”

This comes on the heels of an earlier post he made on 24 March 2017 in which he said that at the end of the 99-year lease, HDB flats become worthless as they have to be returned to the government. This caused an online stir among homeowners.

In yesterday’s post, Mr Wong tried to reassure Singaporeans that HDB flats are a “good store of asset value”. Retirees, he pointed out, can monetise their asset in three ways: By selling the remaining lease back to the government under the Lease Buyback Scheme, downgrading to a smaller apartment, or subletting one’s flat.

What Mr Wong doesn’t realise, or cares little about, is that all these measures entail elderly people to regress in life. They force retirees to make sacrifices and go through difficult times when they should be living out their retirement in peace and security.

Partially renting out ones’ flat comes with risks and problems of ending up with an unreliable or untrustworthy housemate. The other option of downgrading means having to relocate and breaking friendships and community bonds forged through the years.

One of life’s goals is to work hard in our younger years so that we can live in relative comfort in our twilight years. What is the point if we cannot make such progress in life?

Doesn’t our National Pledge promise to “achieve happiness, prosperity and progress”? How is subletting and downgrading our homes at the end of our lives considered progress, much less prosperity and happiness?

Having worked diligently, played by the rules, and dutifully paid one’s taxes, retirees should not have to face such anxieties at the end life’s journey.

Such an outcome can only be caused by the PAP making money from the people by selling the people expensive HDB flats and leaving them with little funds to retire on.

The fact that the government has to come up with various schemes for retirees to generate income from their HDB flats testifies to the financial plight of many retirees in Singapore. These measures are a damning, if tacit, admission by the PAP’s of its greed and perversity when it comes to the HDB’s profit-generating scheme.

Yet, Mr Wong has the gall to insist that Singaporeans enjoy “significant subsidies” when we purchase HDB flats. Repeated calls for the government to open up HDB accounts for public scrutiny have met with stubborn silence.

To overcome such a problem, the SDP proposes the introduction of Non-Open Market (NOM) flats. Under this initiative, a segment of new flats will be priced at cost, that is, reflecting administrative, material, labour costs only without the land “cost” that is currently factored in. Such a scheme will effectively halve the current price of BTO flats.

As the name implies, however, flats bought under this scheme will not be allowed to be re-sold in the open market. Owners wishing to dispose of their NOM flats will have to sell them back to the HDB.

Those who wish to re-sell their flats in the open market can continue under the present arrangement.

More more information about NOM flats, please read the SDP’s policy Housing A Nation.

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