“Factually and legally wrong” to assert HDB flat buyers are merely renters: National Development Minister

Amid public uncertainties over whether HDB flat buyers are homeowners or lessees given the fact that HDB flats are bought on a 99-year-lease from the Government, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong has asserted that the notion that HDB flat buyers are merely renters is “factually and legally wrong.”

Speaking at a forum at the HDB Hub today, the Minister said that this is because buyers of both public and private leasehold properties enjoy ownership rights during the lease period and since “They can also sell their properties and benefit from any upside, or rent it out if they choose to.”

Explaining the Government’s stance on leasehold property, the Minister explained: “We have limited space and we need to recycle land to create housing for future generations. Otherwise, Singapore runs the risk of being like some other cities where, because it is difficult to recycle the land, there is a land shortage and housing becomes “very expensive and unaffordable”.

Wong further cautioned that while the Government welcomes feedback on public housing, especially since it is something the people care deeply about, “the debate must always be based on facts, not misinformation and half-truths.”

The latest uproar over whether HDB flat buyers are homeowners, lessees, or tenants/renters comes after International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong advised last month “that we be honest with ourselves and recognise that we are merely lessees who rent the HDB flats for their terms”.

Wong’s clarification comes after his party head, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, also refuted the notion that the 99-year HDB lease is “merely an extended rental” and not a sale, asserting that HDB lessees are owners of their flats and not renters.

Many Singaporeans on social media found PM Lee’s statement confusing since it seems to indicate that public flat buyers are both “HDB lessees” and “owners”. Some Singaporeans suggested that the Government has flipped the definition of lessee to suit them, since well-known dictionaries define those who buy property under a lease as lessees who are akin to tenants – not homeowners.

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