I can’t take the flat with me when i die

AT 72, Mr Koh Chiong Eng is worried he may lose his job as a petrol pump assistant.

That is why he was among the five who signed up for the Lease Buyback scheme, which was officially launched yesterday some two years after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mooted the idea.

“I can‚t take the flat with me if I die. It‚s better to sell it to the Government and get some money to meet my daily needs,” he said.

Mr Koh, who lives with his wife, will receive about $600 monthly for the rest of their lives based on the $236,000 value of their three-room Tampines flat.

Under the scheme, lessees of two- or three-bedroom flats aged 62 and above effectively sell the tail-end of the lease – at market value – to the Housing and Development Board (HDB), leaving them with a shorter 30-year lease. The lessee then receives a monthly payout from a CPF annuity plan while continuing to live in his or her existing home.

The Government will offer a $10,000 “bonus” to those who sign up – half of it in cash upfront, and the remainder into the annuity.

Speaking to some 200 senior citizens at Tampines Central Community Complex yesterday, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan stressed that the Government is “not forcing anyone to sell” their flats; rather, the scheme is an “additional option” which can help them have a “more comfortable retirement”.

Describing the scheme as a “generous” one which gives those who sign up the “best of both worlds”, he urged those who are eligible to “seriously consider” taking up the offer.

HDB will be reaching out to the estimated 25,000 elderly households who qualify, Mr Mah told reporters.

Over the next two months, it will organise exhibitions at 11 areas around the island where there are high numbers of elderly households to raise awareness and understanding of the scheme.

HDB officers will also be going door-to-door to answer queries and give out information booklets.

Retiree Madam Choi Lai, 63, who lives in a four-room flat in Queenstown with her husband, expressed hope that the rules would be relaxed so that she could qualify for the scheme. “I want to keep my home too if the time comes when I need more income,” she said.

Mr Mah noted that the priority now is to help smaller flat owners, who are more likely to be from the lower-income bracket. “The four roomers have other options because you can still downgrade to a three-room studio apartment, and they are able to unlock the value,” he said. “With the three roomers, it is much harder to downgrade. They are the ones who are more in need of this scheme.”

But he added that the scheme may be extended, based on feedback and demand.

To find out more, visit HDB branch offices or call 1800-5556363.

Source : Today – 2 Mar 2009

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