Minister for National Development, Mr Lawrence Wong, in answering several questions on public housing in parliament, has assured Singaporeans that the Government is committed to strengthening the institution of public housing.
Mr Wong said: “Over the past 50 years, HDB home ownership has uplifted generations of Singaporeans, and given them a stake in the nation’s progress. The Government is committed to strengthen our institution of public housing and home ownership, so that it continues to bring tangible benefits to current and future generations of Singaporeans. This is why at the recent National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee highlighted MND’s plans to systematically upgrade older HDB flats through HIP and HIP II, and to progressively renew and rebuild older HDB towns through VERS.”
He added: “Various members have asked about the details of VERS. VERS will be launched in about 20 years’ time to pace out the redevelopment of our older towns. Some of our older housing estates were built up in a hurry to meet the housing needs of Singaporeans at that time. By spreading out the redevelopment of these towns over a span of 20 to 30 years through VERS, we can avoid having to rebuild entire towns in a similar hurry, which would be highly disruptive.”
The Minister said that this large-scale redevelopment effort is a good opportunity not only to rebuild some of Singapore’s older estates, “but also to introduce new and exciting concepts of living into our older towns. To achieve this, we will need to carefully study how to select the precincts and stage the redevelopment, precinct by precinct, town by town.”
The Minister also explained why the Government introduced Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) to strengthen the institution of public housing.
He said: “We have already explained the broad concept of VERS and how it is different from SERS. SERS is limited to precincts where there is high development value to be unlocked. Because of the value unlocked, we share this value with residents through generous compensation, and the acquisition can be made compulsory.”
Adding: “In the case of VERS, we expect more flats to be eligible, as the intention is to space out the redevelopment of the town. But the compensation terms for VERS will be less generous than SERS, because we will be redeveloping land that is more built up. Hence VERS will be offered on a voluntary basis and residents will get to vote.”
Mr Wong acknowledged that many details of VERS are still not worked out:
“We have outlined the broad concept of VERS. But there are still many details to be worked out, and we will need time to do so. This includes the extent of coverage of VERS and how the compensation will be computed. In particular, we will ensure that we implement VERS in a fiscally sustainable way, so that it does not become a burden for the next generation. For residents who do not get VERS for their flat, or who do not poll in favour of VERS, they will continue to live in their flats which would have benefitted from two rounds of upgrading. If they need a place at the end of the lease, the Government will help them get another flat to live in. It could be a new flat from HDB for those who are eligible; a resale flat on a shorter lease; or a 2R flexi flat for retirement. So we will have various options to cater to diverse needs.”
In answering Member of Parliament, Cheryl Chan’s question if private developers will be involved in the VERS process, the Minister said, “in the case of SERS today, we already from time to time inject some private development in the redevelopment process.”
Adding: “So for VERS going forward, I will not rule out the possibility of having private developers involved and we will study her suggestion carefully. But let’s be very clear. Our aim is to redevelop public housing estates, so we will ensure that any redevelopment is done in a way that preserves the character of our HDB towns and supports HDB’s mission to provide affordable and quality homes for Singaporeans.”
Mr Wong said the Government has put in place ambitious housing plans for the next few decades, but whether they come to pass depends on Singapore’s external, economic and financial situation.
He assured Singaporeans that the Government has a track record of delivering on its commitments on public housing.
“We will continue to work with all Singaporeans – to translate our plans into reality and build a better Singapore for the future,” he said.
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