Residents in ageing estate split over whether to vote yes to Vers
Madam Valentina Doss still remembers the smell of nearby pig farms at Block 1, Lorong 7 Toa Payoh five decades ago. She has lived there since she was 19.
It is not her fondest memory, said Madam Doss, now 68 and retired, but it reminds her of how she has grown with Toa Payoh.
As Block 1 is among the oldest non-rental flats in Singapore, her ageing three-room flat is an example of a home that might be up for the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers).
Vers was announced at this year's National Day Rally on Sunday.
The scheme allows residents in selected precincts to vote on whether to sell their flats back to the Government early, after the flats have crossed the age of 70.
It is part of a long-term plan to progressively redevelop older precincts.
Details of the scheme are still being worked out, but if Vers comes to Block 1, Madam Doss will probably say no to moving out of her long-time home.
Said the former civil servant, who lives alone: "We have a community who have lived here for as long as I have. If the majority votes yes, I will feel bad to move, but I hope that it never comes to that."
Not all her neighbours may agree: Out of 20 households at Block 1 interviewed yesterday, six households said they would vote yes; four were undecided. The remaining 10 would say no to Vers.
Some, like Madam Doss, see little point in moving out of a perfectly good home.
Several residents, such as taxi driver N. Govindaraju, 53, said moving house is disruptive.
Others say a collective sale at the 70-year mark would give residents a payout that can go towards paying for their next home or be passed on to their children, instead of allowing their home values to dwindle to naught at the end of the 99-year leases.
Nurse Razel Comeso, 46, who bought her flat seven years ago for $350,000, wants to be able to pass on an inheritance to her two children. Wholesale florist James Wong, in his 50s, wants to move before the onset of age-related maintenance issues.
Whether they favour Vers or not, residents ultimately gain from having the option of a government buy out before lease expiry, said Bishan-Toa Payoh MP Saktiandi Supaat.
Even if Vers does not proceed, residents can still expect their ageing homes to receive upgrading and maintenance through other policies, such as the expanded Home Improvement Programme, he said.