Woman refuses to budge from deserted HDB estate for 16 months
The seven blocks had been identified for redevelopment under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers)
Under the scheme, which was introduced 20 years ago to rejuvenate older estates, the displaced residents would be offered new flats near their former homes at subsidised prices.
Five years after the initial notice, all but one resident had moved out.
The last one standing, Madam Foong Chea Tai, 67, who owns a three-room flat on the third storey at Block 79, said: "I'm not being weird, I just want to stay here."
She told Shin Min Daily News on Wednesday: "I don't want to move out. Now it's hard to buy a new flat. The lease is not up yet, I can still continue living here."
Most of the former residents in Madam Foong's estate are now living across the road in Blocks 50 to 53 after moving out about 16 months ago.
The units in the four 40-storey blocks, which were ready in July 2013, were offered to them by HDB as options to replace their old homes under the scheme. (See report on facing page.)
After their departure, Madam Foong was the only person left living in the deserted estate.
The lifts in her block stopped operating. However, water and electricity was still supplied to her home.
The staircases in the other six blocks were gated up and locked to prevent access into the buildings.
The New Paper understands that Madam Foong's sons would visit her occasionally during her solitary stay there.
On Wednesday, Shin Min Daily News reported that 10 HDB officers, accompanied by police officers, went to Madam Foong's unit at 7.30am that morning.
The report said the policemen had protective shields as they stood guard on the third storey. It did not say why the police needed protective shields.
TNP understands that the visit was yet another attempt to convince Madam Foong to leave, but she refused.
When TNP went to her block on Wednesday afternoon, the three staircases leading to the units were gated and locked.
Responding to TNP's queries, an HDB spokesman said in an e-mail reply on Wednesday evening that Madam Foong had vacated the flat that afternoon.
It did not provide details on Madam Foong's departure but said it would provide her with temporary accommodation and help her with her housing options, including the purchase of a new replacement flat.
"At the request of Madam Foong's next-of-kin, HDB has got ready the keys of suitable replacement flats," the spokesman added.
"If she is willing to take up a replacement flat and sign the documents for the purchase, we will arrange for the keys to be issued to her immediately."
Under Sers, residents will receive market compensation for their HDB flats based on a professional valuation.
The spokesman said the compensation for Madam Foong's flat was based on its prevailing market value as at Aug 8, 2008, when Sers was announced for the area.
"With the Sers compensation and price discount, Madam Foong is eligible to purchase an equivalent new three-room replacement flat without any cash outlay. She will also have cash proceeds after the purchase."
She said HDB had made numerous attempts to contact Madam Foong since 2008 but she did not respond to the letters and notices sent to her, or open the door during HDB's repeated house visits.
"HDB has tried its best to reach out to Madam Foong and to explore various ways to help her move into a new replacement flat.
"These included seeking her family's assistance and working with local grassroots leaders and social workers from the Family Service Centre," she added.
But her family could not persuade her to take up a new flat.
Then, last November, Madam Foong indicated her interest in taking up a replacement flat by signing the application form but she subsequently rejected the flat when the keys were ready for collection.
"This was despite her family members having viewed the flat and assuring her that they liked it. Madam Foong has insisted on living in the Sers flat, and reiterated that she will not consider a new flat," she said.
The spokesman added that as the only resident left in the block, Madam Foong needed to vacate the flat "for her safety, security and well-being".
"HDB has tried its best to reach out to Madam Foong and to explore various ways to help her move into a new replacement flat. These included seeking her family's assistance and working with local grassroots leaders and social workers from the Family Service Centre."
- HDB spokesman
"At the request of Madam Foong's next-of-kin, HDB has got ready the keys of suitable replacement flats for her."
- HDB spokesman
Former residents happy with new flats
HOME SWEET HOME: Mr Pang, his wife and his mother-in-law, say they are happy in their new five-room flat across the street from the old estate where they lived at. - TNP PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO
A former resident of Block 79 is baffled why Madam Foong Chea Tai would want to remain there when the new 40-storey blocks are nicer and newer.
The shopkeeper who wanted to be known only as Mr Pang said he used live in the floor above Madam Foong's, but did not know her well.
"I don't understand why she wants to continue living there because these blocks look nicer and are much newer. Our old estate was so rundown," he said.
Several other former residents of Blocks 74 to 80 at Commonwealth Drive approached by The New Paper also preferred their new homes, citing the views and spaciousness.
Mr Pang said his family used to live in a three-room flat in the old estate, but decided to fork out about $200,000 to upgrade to a five-room flat because his wife loved the unit the moment she saw it.
The couple, who live with the wife's mother, said they enjoy the unobstructed view from the balcony of their living room on the 23rd storey.
Mr Pang said in Mandarin: "It's perpetually windy here and it's nice. I live on such a high floor now and the view is quite attractive."
Another resident on the 13th storey of Mr Pang's block said his new home is much more spacious than his old flat at Block 77.
The man in his early 20s who declined to be named said: "The layout here is more suitable for my family. We enjoy the peace and quiet of this new estate, especially at night.
"At least I know my mother, who is always busy with chores and the kids, can get a good night's rest as long as we live here."
"The layout here is more suitable for my family. We enjoy the peace and quiet of this new estate, especially at night."
- Mr Pang, a former resident in Madam Foong Chea Tai's block, who used to live in a three-room flat, but paid $200,000 to upgrade to a five-room unit