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Scheme may be expanded

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The Government will consider expanding the Lease Buyback Scheme, which helps the elderly monetise their HDB flats.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said his ministry is studying suggestions to expand the scheme to include bigger flats.

Only those with three-room flats are now eligible for the scheme, which lets the elderly sell part of their lease back to HDB. This gives them a sum of money, while they still retain a 30-year lease on the flat.

The scheme has not seen large numbers signing up for it so far.

But Mr Khaw, who was at a post-Budget dialogue with grassroots leaders, said: "I do not regard the low take-up rate as a failure. I would just say that it means people are not financially desperate to need to take advantage of those options.

"The options are there for those who need it. But that doesn't mean that we will stop at three-room flats."

He said the measures in the Budget and the Pioneer Generation Package will help "debunk" the view that healthcare is not affordable for seniors.

Taking the subsidies and Medisave top-ups together, someone who is 80 this year will not need to pay any MediShield Life premiums at all, The Straits Times quoted Mr Khaw as saying.

Responding to questions on what can be expected at his ministry's Committee of Supply debate, he said that the housing needs of newly-weds have largely been met in the last two years. So the focus can now be on others, like divorcees and single parents.

And there may be more options for the elderly living in four-room and five-room flats.

"I don't have a solution as yet, but I would like to see what else we can do to help seniors in a big flat move to a smaller flat if they wish to (and put) more money in their pockets," Channel NewsAsia quoted Mr Khaw as saying. "So I'm open to ideas and discussions."

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