Singapore

Ministry still studying how to implement Vers

Minister urges patience, redirects focus to an expanded upgrading programme

Even as anticipation over the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) builds up, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong has urged patience about the details, noting that the more immediate policy to watch is an expanded upgrading programme.

As MPs sought more details on Vers, which lets owners of older Housing Board flats vote for the Government to buy back their flats, Mr Wong said the road map for housing redevelopment includes more immediate initiatives such as an expanded upgrading programme.

While Vers was among the slew of new housing policies rolled out at the National Day Rally, "there are quite a number of major items that have to be put in place", with the more immediate one being the expanded Home Improvement Programme (HIP), he said in Parliament yesterday.

An ongoing programme, HIP I will be expanded to cover more HDB flats - those built between 1987 and 1997 - while a new HIP II scheme will see each flat upgraded a second time during its 99-year lease, when it is around 60 to 70 years old.

The earliest flats that can go through a second round of upgrading is in around 10 years.

Meanwhile, Vers will kick in in around two decades, when the first flats turn 70 years old or so.

Yesterday's Parliament sitting was the first time MPs had a chance to pose questions since the new programmes were announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last month.

Five MPs sought details, including the extent of coverage of Vers and how compensation will be computed.

But Mr Wong said it was too early to say, as the ministry is still going through "a very thorough study" on how to implement the scheme.

He added that while more flats would be eligible for Vers as compared to the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers), which is limited to precincts where there is high development value, not all would be chosen for Vers.

Sers applies to about 5 per cent of HDB flats.

"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 benefited from two rounds of upgrading," he said.

The Government would also help them get another flat to live in at the end of the 99-year lease.

This could be a new flat from HDB for those who are eligible, a resale flat with a shorter lease, or a two-room flexi flat for retirement.

In addition, the Government is looking at how to make the use of the Central Provident Fund more flexible so buyers can purchase HDB flats with shorter leases while having enough to retire on, said Mr Wong.

Property