One of the advantages of freehold property as opposed to leasehold is that the building and the land is yours, there is no clock ticking meaning decisions will have to be made some time in the future, and the value is dependent almost purely on market forces, not the ever decreasing amount of time that remains on the lease. Or so we have always been led to believe. It is not quite that black and white however, just ask the residents of Merpati Road in MacPherson.
The story starts back in 2010, when all 15 of the home owners in the street were informed that the state required the land in order to build a high-rise development. The land had suddenly become of more interest with the building of the Mattar MRT station that incidentally is due to open later this year. 12 of the residents have subsequenty moved out, but 3 remained, ignoring repeated letters and deadlines, until eviction notices were finally served on April 25th. This effectively means that the homes are now the property of the state, and the previous owners have 28 days to vacate their properties.
The original deadline was in August of 2015, but after the 3 homeowners refused to leave, the deadline was extended for 20 months. An SLA spokesperson insisted that the deadline could not be extended further, as infrastructure and road realignment work needed to start in order to prepare the area for development.
As well as additional assistance packages, such as priority in the ballot for a Housing Board flat, and the option to rent a public housing unit while they are seeking another home, compensation is paid to all the homeowners forced to relocate. But therein lays another bone of contention. The compensation is worked out for each individual property, based on the market value of that property. However, that valuation was determined as of 2010, at the time of the initial acquisition notice. It remains at that level regardless of when the property owners move out, meaning that the longer they remain, (assuming property prices rise), the worse off they will be. Now, 7 years after the valuations were made, residents are facing the realisation that they will have to downgrade considerably, as the compensation will not allow them to move to similar sized properties in the area. Even those who moved out soon after the initial notices were served have struggled, with the majority being forced to buy smaller homes in the vicinity.
Apparently, there was an option for residents to file an appeal to gain higher compensation with the Appeals Board, but none did. Whether they were aware of the fact that that route was open to them, is not known.
Though this is rare, it is not the first time such an acquisition order has been served on home owners in Singapore. In April 2016 in Tanjong Katong, a block of apartments were taken back by the SLA as part of the development of the Amber MRT station. In that instance there was also bad feeling regarding the amount of compensation that was being offered, and in fact several residents did appeal for the amount to be increased.
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