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Govt To Review Development Control Rules, Mulls Over Senior Care Leave
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee. Photo: Parliament screengrab
February 7th, 2018 | 11:35 AM | 397 views
In order to provide more clarity on retirement housing options for the elderly, the Government will be reviewing its guidelines on development control, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee in Parliament on Tues (Feb 6). Such controls are used to help the authorities regulate and facilitate developments on the ground, and guidelines can include building coverage, intensity, and height.
Employees could also get senior care leave to tend to their parents, as Mr Lee said that the Government is “prepared to study the idea”, but he added that businesses should be given time to adjust and adapt to the several family leave enhancements made over the last few years.
Mr Lee was responding to calls by the People’s Action Party Seniors Group (PAP.SG) to improve the lives of seniors, with the motion led by Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC).
In his speech in Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Kwek said that while developments like Singapore’s first retirement community at Kampung Admiralty are a good start for HDB flat dwellers, there was a need to “quickly assemble” a wider range of “good options at different price options” so that seniors do not lose their dignity.
He suggested that the Government could look at having a separate land use category for retirement or assisted living homes that only regulated players could bid for, and which would fetch a lower amount in land sales.
Another option would be to put in “watertight regulations” on what constitutes a retirement home, said Mr Kwek, which would mean having developers list out their assisted living services, service standards and pricing.
However, he also said that this would only offer a “partial solution”, as genuine senior buyers could be priced out by those looking to invest or speculate in property.
This had happened in 2014 at The Hillford, which was then marketed as a potential retirement home. However, all 281 units were snapped up on its first day of sales due to overwhelming demand not only from senior citizens, but from investors shopping for shoebox apartments. Mr Kwek said: “Some have questioned whether it turned out to be more a condominium than a retirement home.”
Another suggestion from the Nee Soon GRC MP was for the authorities to look into providing a bonus gross floor area (GFA) to selected older condominums that want to be partially or fully transformed into a retirement village.
The Pearl Bank condominium, said Mr Kwek, was one example of a residential building with a “deep sense of community” that could be transformed by building an additional 150 units of senior housing on top of its carpark. However, they were unable to do so through the en-bloc route as the development had maximised its GFA under current regulations.
On the topic of senior care leave, Mr Kwek proposed that four days of leave be given to those who fit these criteria: Singaporeans with parents above the age of 70, have less than 14 days of annual leave, and work in bigger companies with more than 100 employees.
MPs Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) also asked if there were other ways for seniors to monetise their properties without having to move out of their homes. In response, Mr Lee said that retirees can tap on mortgage equity withdrawal loans from financial Institutions.
“This will help retirees, many of whom would have paid up most of their outstanding housing loan, monetise part of the value of their property,” said Mr Lee.
To step up protection for seniors who have lost their mental capacity, the MSF will also launch the Professional Deputies and Donees Scheme this year. This will allow professionals to be appointed donees or deputies for seniors without next-of-kin for a fee, and to make decisions on their behalf.
Other suggestions raised by 12 MPs in Parliament to help improve seniors’ lives included using technology and innovation to improve their employability, elder-friendly designs in HDB flats and at public transport areas, as well as incentives to encourage them to volunteer for community programmes.
In her speech in Parliament, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor cited the various efforts by the Government to help the elderly with their healthcare costs.
Just last week, recommendations were made to lower the inclusion age for the ElderShield scheme to 30 years old to provide stronger support for disability in old age.
Responding to questions on the rationale behind the recommendation, Dr Khor said that lowering the inclusion age would distribute “an individual’s own premium payment over a longer period during his working years to pay for his own future needs when he grows old”, and that it would make annual premiums more affordable.
Dr Khor also said that the ministry would provide more details on plans to strengthen its Community Networks for Seniors initiative – a network of health and social care partners to support seniors – at the upcoming Committee of Supply debates.
courtesy of TODAY
by TOH EE MING
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