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HDB 'journey manager' handles tough questions on Sers

After 12 years on the job, Housing Board officer Dianne Ho has handled her share of tough questions from owners whose flats have been picked for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers).

Her latest assignment is to help residents at the four blocks in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, some of whom were upset about having to top-up money for a similarly-sized replacement flat.

HDB has since announced two new rehousing options, including a 50-year lease option, to address these concerns.

On dealing with frustrations expressed by owners, Ms Ho said: "We just have to listen to their feedback and explain to them that they have two additional options so it is not a dead end for them. After we explain, they are quite okay and may consider taking up one of the options."

Ms Ho, 49, is one of the 30 Sers "journey managers" conducting door-to-door visits at the Ang Mo Kio Sers site.

Her job is to address concerns and questions from owners whose flats have been selected for Sers, as well as help them during the transition period until they move into their new flats.

The whole process typically takes around five years, and entails multiple visits to each household.

While Ms Ho has encountered her fair share of Sers owners, especially elderly residents, who express reluctance to move at the initial stage, there is an added challenge from Ang Mo Kio Sers owners due to concerns about having to top-up for their replacement flats at the designated site next to ITE College Central.

Ms Ho, who speaks fluent English, Mandarin and Cantonese, said she tries to build a rapport with elderly residents by engaging them in a language or dialect they are familiar with.

"On the first day of any Sers announcement, people are generally shocked because they don't expect it. It's a very normal reaction. They need time to digest and go through the information," she said.

"Likewise, for the 50-year lease option, because it's new we're still visiting residents to explain to them what their rehousing options are and guide them through what flats they would like to buy, as well as roughly how much it will cost them financially."

Most of the 20 households at the Ang Mo Kio Sers site that Ms Ho is assigned to are now considering taking up the shorter lease, which generally will not require them to top up any money for a flat of similar size.

The second option - a lease buyback scheme offered to seniors aged 65 and up - has received less interest, said Ms Ho.

Under the lease buyback scheme, owners can keep a lease that will cover them and their spouse till they are at least 95 years old, and sell the remaining lease to HDB. The compensation can then be used to buy a short-lease replacement flat.

Ms Ho said one reason for the lukewarm response could be that owners are still waiting to receive their market compensation notice from the HDB, which is due in the fourth quarter of this year.

Ms Dianne Ho is one of the 30 Sers "journey managers" conducting door-to-door visits at the Ang Mo Kio Sers site. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

 

She has been helping Sers owners at 11 sites. While Ms Ho said she has encountered some cases of elderly residents who initially did not want to move, almost all eventually come around.

"Previously, at Tanglin Halt Sers site, there was an elderly man in his 60s who was reluctant to shift. But after selecting his new flat at the Dawson replacement site, he kept calling me to ask when he can collect keys to his new place," she said.

"So I arranged for him to collect his keys as soon as possible. Not too long after he moved into his new flat, he called again to say he was very happy with his new flat and facilities."

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