SINGAPORE (Jan 14): The last thing anyone wants to hear is that his home, for which he paid about half a million dollars not too long ago, will eventually be worth little to nothing. That was the collective shock of more than 80% of the Singapore population in March 2017, when National Development Minister Lawrence Wong cautioned that not all HDB flats would be eligible for redevelopment when their 99-year leases expire. Those flats would essentially be repossessed by the state and have zero residual value. That happened about three months later, when residents of terrace houses on Geylang Lorong 3 were told they had to move out — without compensation — by December 2020, when their 60-year leases ended.

Wong’s initial statement followed news reports of ageing flats being sold at high prices. At the time, property industry experts called on Singaporeans to rethink the concept of local home ownership, particularly when it came to public housing on leasehold; there is no guarantee it is an ever-appreciating asset that would provide financial security for the long term.

Since then, however, the government has made several assurances, including launching asset enhancement and lease buyback schemes for public housing, and asserting that an HDB flat is, indeed, an appreciating asset that Singaporeans could use as a retirement nest egg. Those reassurances may have reignited confidence in ageing HDB property. Last year, at least four four-room and one five-room HDB flats in Tiong Bahru were sold for more than $1 million.

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