Pearls Centre residents seek to get flats faster

Published on Oct 01, 2012

By Daryl Chin

FIVE households from Pearls Centre have asked the authorities to waive a 30-month debarment period for getting a new flat from the Housing Board.

The 43-year-old building in Chinatown was acquired by the Government to build underground tunnels for the Thomson MRT Line last month.

The owners of 44 residential units and occupants of 199 shops have two years to move out.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Housing Board are evaluating the requests.

The 30-month restriction is meant to prevent private-property downgraders from immediately competing for affordable housing with those who have yet to enjoy a housing subsidy.

Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC Indranee Rajah, who submitted the requests on the residents' behalf, said: "Things are very much still in the air now as the process is ongoing and SLA is meeting those affected. I'm hopeful... of a good outcome for the five requests."

She added that there were four other requests for a fair compensation.

In a statement to The Straits Times, the SLA said these owners would still have to meet the HDB's criteria for buying a new flat such as not owning any other private property.

Property market watcher Chris Koh, director of Chris International, said "a waiver is never a given as the Government will typically look at the financial situation of the households, particularly if they might get a windfall gain from the acquisition".

According to Mr Koh, a 750 sq ft apartment at Pearls Centre that would have fetched $380,000 in 1996, would be worth about $700,000 this year.

The Government has offered help to the affected owners, including waiving the standard 60per cent cap on a second home loan, as well as giving residents an advance payment of 40per cent of their statutory compensation.

A Pearls Centre resident in his 50s, Mr Robert Lee, said such measures were the least the Government should come up with. "We've been living here happily for so many years. We should not be penalised if you want us to move," he said.

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