Not long ago, I visited Victor’s 2-room flat opposite Pasir Ris MRT & White Sands next to the MRT viaduct and TPE. He was kind enough to invite me over to his new place even though I’ve barely known him thru Wilson.
Victor Han aged about 67 yrs, used to work as a Regional Sales Manager. He’s now a semi retired weekend taxi driver. On weekdays, he pursues his own interests with more than an hour of daily morning brisk walking in the early hours at Pasir Ris beach to kick off his day.
He’s thinking of giving up his weekend job to go on full retirement since he’s getting a decent monthly payout from his CPF. He says it’s enough for him since he doesn’t smoke or drink. He’s a widower with a married daughter giving him monthly allowance for his living expenses. As such, he need not have to work at all.
Victor used to live in a 4-room flat opposite Downtown East. He was living alone in that flat for almost 8 yrs after his daughter got married off. He didn’t like to rent out the spare rooms to live with strangers. So he decided to sell it and opted for the 2-room flexi scheme. This flexi scheme replaces the studio apartment scheme for the elderly. HDB, like all other govt depts will never admit their mistakes. Instead, it says the studio apartment scheme for the elderly was discontinued due to “low take up rate”.
According to Victor, only citizens above 55 yrs qualify for the 2 room flexi scheme. HDB assumes that you will live till 100 yrs. The lease sold is based on your age on blocks of 5 yrs capped at 45 yrs. If you are 65 yrs, the lease shall be 35 yrs and so on. You must pay in full without any loan given. It cannot be sold in the open market. Don’t ever think of making any money out of it.
I asked Victor the same 2 questions he asked HDB regarding this scheme. What if he were to live beyond 100 yrs? Will the HDB take over the flat? What if he were to expire before the end of the lease? Victor told me that HDB assured him he could continue living in the flat for the rest of his life and not be evicted. As for the payment beyond the contractual lease, it shall be worked out by then.
In the event that he departs suddenly for the netherworld and can’t complete the full lease, the balance shall be refunded pro rated to his next of kin.
Victor bought the brand new 2 room flat (45 sq metre) at only $83K on a 35 yr lease. Yup, HDB sold the flat to him for a song if you compare the same on the open market. My colleague recently bought a 2 room resale flat at Buangkok for $243K. Another colleague bought an old 3 room flat which is more than 50 yrs old at Marsiling Drive opposite the Market & Hawker Centre at $245K. That’s how costly our flats have become.
When I sold my new generation 4-room flat in Hougang at $250K 10 yrs ago, I incurred a loss of 16K. It was bought at $266K in the open market. The agent told me it’s no loss considering the fact that I lived in the flat for nearly 10 yrs before selling it off. If we move further back in time, my parents paid only $101K for their 4 room A model flat in 1994 – 23 yrs ago bought directly from HDB.
Maybe, due to the current high housing costs, the govt introduced the studio apartment for the elderly and subsequently the 2-room flexi scheme. This is to help retirees “monetise” their fully paid flats. Retirees like Victor do not need to live in such a big flat once their children got married and set up their own separate homes.
I think the 2 room flexi scheme is an attractive option for citizens above 55 yrs. Victor is so happy staying in his flat with all the convenience of amenities. His block of flats is a mix of other types of flats and families without the unpleasant stigma of living in a block of studio apartments.
One major reason for the failure of studio apartments is they are lump together in a block specially reserved for them which is akin to old folks home. Imagine going back seeing funerals at the void deck every now and then. Who wants to be reminded of one’s impending dateline in this mortal world?
Suffice to say that our friend Victor is a happy citizen with an ideal home customised to his needs. With a big 24 hr supermarket and coffeeshop below his flat, 7 mins walking distance to the MRT station and beautiful beach a stone throw away, amongst the many amenities, what more can he ask for?
At the end of my house visit, I wish Victor all the best in his new home. How I wish I could be in his shoes in the near future.
Below are photos taken at HDB Hub sample set up of 2 room flat.
PS: This blog post is published with permission and endorsed by Victor Han.