For those living in Housing Board flats, having access to lifts that stop on every floor is not just for convenience. For the elderly and disabled residents, it’s an essential amenity.
But there are 140 blocks across Singapore that still do not have direct access to lifts, Desmond Lee said on Monday (Jan 9).
The Minister for National Development was responding to a parliamentary question filed by Member of Parliament (MP) Ang Wei Neng (PAP-West Coast).
In a written reply, Lee explained why it is not feasible to provide direct lift access to those 140 blocks which has just under 2,000 units.
Besides the existing technical and site constraints, there is also the financial outlay of building the lifts.
“In some cases, to provide lifts for these high-cost blocks, it may cost more than $200,000 per household,” Lee said, without specifying where the 140 blocks are located.
He did not disclose the reasons behind the “high cost” of providing some residents with direct access to lifts and how it is calculated.
“Nevertheless, over the years, we have also continued to exercise flexibility for some blocks even when they have exceeded the Lift Upgrading Cost (LUP) cost,” he added.
It was previously reported back in 2020 that there were some 150 HDB blocks across Singapore where lift upgrading was not possible, including six blocks in Hougang.
Responding to parliamentary questions by several MPs in March that year, then-National Development Minister Lawrence Wong also said that it is not just about having flexibility on the cost cap of $30,000 per household for lift upgrading.
“We are talking about costs of more than $200,000 per household in some cases. As Mr Png Eng Huat said, enough to buy another HDB flat,” he said.
AsiaOne has contacted HDB for comment.
$30,000 grant for residents with urgent need for lift access
There is recourse for residents who urgently need direct lift access, according to Lee in his written reply to the parliamentary question on Monday.
Those with medical conditions or mobility reasons can apply for the Lift access Housing Grant (LHG) of up to $30,000 to buy either a resale flat or a new flat from HDB with direct lift access.
“So far, most applications for the LHG have been approved, while some others are under evaluation,” he said.
Home lifts and bubble lifts
Noting LUP’s launch in 2001, Lee said there were initially more than 5,300 HDB blocks without direct lift access.
Of these, more than 1,000 blocks were initially found to be unfeasible for LUP due to cost or technical constraints, he added.
But Lee said that his ministry had explored “possible options to bring direct lift access” to residents living in those blocks.
These include introducing machine room-less lifts for blocks with height constraints, smaller “home lifts” for residents dependent on a wheelchair, as well as bubble lifts.
“HDB will continue to monitor the situation and assess if further enhancements are necessary to meet the needs of residents,” Lee said.
‘You also want to be fair to residents’
Lift upgrading works has been a highly contentious issue in recent times.
During a General Election walkabout in July 2020, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad responded to criticism by residents of Block 115 and 119 in Marsiling Rise about the lack of lift access on every floor.
Zaqy, who was part of the four-member team contesting in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, told the Straits Times then: “You also want to be fair to residents and taxpayers on how taxpayer dollars are being used to do upgrading.
“But certainly over time, with different ways in which lifts can be upgraded or used, we can review the different types of cost structures to see which flats are now eligible… I just want to assure residents we will look into it and I will take it up.”
Checks by AsiaOne on Tuesday (Jan 10) showed that Block 115 and 119 in Marsiling Rise are now shortlisted for LUP polling.
Lift upgrading will only proceed when at least 75 per cent of the block’s eligible Singapore citizen households are in favour of it, according to HDB.
While the government and town council subsidise a large portion of the lift-upgrading cost, flat owners who are Singapore citizens will need to pay up to $3,000.
This article was first published on AsiaOne and republished on theAsianparent with permission