Our seniors in Singapore are a resilient and independent bunch. After all, things weren’t always smooth sailing in the 1960s, and they had to learn to fend for themselves when the going got tough. Even in their golden years today, many of them remain independent and go about their daily lives on their own.
With more and more of our elderly living independently, it’s crucial that they are able to age well in today’s society. To that end, the Government has been promoting the notion of active ageing. This holistic approach aims to help senior citizens maintain a good quality of life by ensuring that they are physically and mentally healthy, while keeping up with their social interactions and being financially secure.
More Elderly in Singapore Living Independently
In recent years, there has been a rising trend of senior citizens – aged 65 and above – living by themselves. According to estimates from the Department of Statistics, by 2030, there will be 83,000 senior citizens living alone in Singapore, and this will be slightly more than one and a half times the number in 2016 (47,000).
If you are getting on in age and living alone, purchasing a new home might be on the cards for a variety of reasons. For instance, you may want to ‘rightsize’ or downsize to a smaller home, as bigger homes require more effort to upkeep and maintain, especially after your adult children move out or your spouse has passed on. Alternatively, you could be considering moving to a neighbourhood nearer your children or grandchildren.
Whichever the case, there are important considerations to make before purchasing a new home. We’ll look at these in greater detail later on, but first, let’s examine some of the available housing options, and which might suit you best.
HDB Flat for Senior Citizens: Which Type of Housing is Best for You?
1. Short Lease 2-room Flexi Flats (HDB BTO or Resale Flat)
First, you have the option of downsizing from your current housing unit and living in a new 2-room Flexi flat. This option is great for seniors who prefer living in a smaller space or want to free up some cash after selling your existing residential property on the open market.
With a 2-room Flexi flat, you can choose your preferred lease duration based on your age, needs and preferences. Eligible buyers aged 55 and above can opt for a shorter lease of between 15 and 45 years in five-year increments in order to lower the purchase price of the flat.
In order to apply for a 2-room Flexi flat unit, you must first qualify to purchase an HDB flat either under the Public Scheme or Single Singapore Citizen Scheme. In addition, you and all other buyers, including your spouse, must be at least 55 years old when you apply for the flat. The lease period you can obtain would depend on the age of the youngest applicant, and last all applicants till the age of 95. Furthermore, if you are applying for BTO flat, there is a combined monthly household income ceiling of $14,000.
To give you a sense of how much the pricing for a 2-room Flexi flat is, here’s a table below showing the prices for past Build-to-Order (BTO) launches, from Feb 2021 onwards.
If you are thinking about purchasing a short-lease HDB 2-Room Flexi flat, do take note that you will not be able to take up any housing loans for your purchase. Instead, you’d have to make your full payment either in cash or through your CPF Ordinary Account (OA).
However, once you obtain your 2-room Flexi flat, you cannot rent out/sell your flat on the open market. If you no longer need the flat, you can return the flat to the HDB and receive a refund of the remaining value of your lease. Furthermore, if you are used to living in slightly bigger 4- or 5-room flat, downsizing to a 2-room Flexi flat might take some getting used to.
2. HDB Community Care Apartments (BTO Flat)
Another suitable housing option that you can consider is a Community Care Apartment, which comes equipped with senior-friendly features and services, and supports the elderly in meeting their social needs. During the Feb 2021 BTO launch, the first HDB assisted living flats, which are also known as Community Care Apartments, were launched in Bukit Batok.
Community Care Apartments provide added features such as slip-resistant flooring and grab bars in bathrooms, to ensure that seniors can go about their daily lives in a convenient and safe manner. In addition, these Care Apartments come with various Care and Support Services and Communal Activities under the Basic Service Package, a mandatory service package that starts from $22,000 for a 15-year lease (this can be extended).
Here is how the prices for the Bukit Batok Community Care Apartments measured up against the other 2-room Flexi flats in the same launch.
These units are best suited for seniors who require more care and prefer to live in a community of mostly seniors. On the flipside, at just 32sqm, these apartments are even smaller than the 2-room Flexi flat option. You would also not be able to rent or sell it on the open market if you change your mind about living in one of these apartments later on. Additionally, as with all HDB flats, your purchase will come with a Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). During this, you can return the flat to the HDB but not purchase a new one.
Indicative prices for the first batch of Community Care apartments in Bukit Batok are listed in the table below:
Indicative Price for a Community Care Apartment (Plus Basic Service Package Fee) February 2021 Launch – Bukit Batok
Similar to the case of a short lease 2-room Flexi flat, you would not be able to take up a loan to finance your Community Care Apartment, and would have to pay the full amount in cash or through your CPF OA.
To apply for a Community Care Apartment, at least one applicant needs to be a Singapore Citizen (SC) and, if you are applying together with your spouse/family, at least one other applicant needs to be a SC or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR). Similar to the 2-room Flexi flat option, you must be above 65 years old when you apply, and your chosen lease must be able to last all applicants till the age of 95. Your monthly combined household income also should also not exceed $14,000.
In the upcoming November 2022 Queenstown BTO launch, there will be Community Care Apartments released in the site located at the confluence of Portsdown Avenue and Queensway. These future Community Care Apartments will be located opposite Alexandra Hospital.
3. 3-Room HDB Flats (BTO or Resale Flat)
Apart from the above options, you may also choose to sell your current flat and use your proceeds to apply for a 3-room HDB BTO/resale flat, either as a single or with your spouse/family.
For BTO flats, the process is similar to the above, except without the short-lease option. One way to finance your property purchase is by taking up a housing loan from a bank with up to 75% Loan-to-Value (LTV) limit, and paying the remaining as a downpayment either through cash or your CPF OA. For this example, let’s look at 3-room resale flats in areas and their median prices, according to HDB resale statistics. We’ve selected housing estates that had the largest population of elderly residents.
There are some possible reasons why you might prefer a 3-room flat to the smaller Community Care Apartment or 2-room Flexi flat. If you previously lived in a 4 or 5-room flat, you might not be comfortable with downsizing to a significantly smaller unit. Alternatively, you may be a caregiver to your grandchildren and might need a larger unit to accommodate them when they stay over.
3-room flats are much bigger compared to 2-room Flexi flats. While on one hand you might enjoy the spaciousness, upkeeping the flat may prove challenging, especially if you aren’t feeling quite so sprightly anymore. You or your spouse may find difficulty cleaning and maintaining the entire flat. Also, compared to Community Care Apartments, 3-room flats offer significantly fewer care services and you will have fewer chances to interact with other elderly, as there are fewer catered communal social activities.
While we’ve discussed 2-room Flexi flats, Community Care Apartments and 3-room flats, it is important to note that these are just some of the options you can consider. You are still free to opt for bigger flats such as a 4 or 5-room flat, but these options would naturally come at a higher cost, and you may not qualify for certain grants, which we discuss in the next section.
Buying HDB Flat for Senior Citizens: Government Schemes and CPF Housing Grants Available
Once you’ve figured out which flat type best suits your needs, you’ll next have to consider how to finance it. Let’s explore some of the schemes and grants you can utilise to pay for your new home.
You can use your CPF Ordinary Account (OA) to finance some of the costs of a home purchase. The amount of funds you can use will be pro-rated according to the remaining lease. However, this is provided that you have already set aside the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) in your CPF OA.
There are also schemes available to help you supplement your retirement income through your existing flat.
1. Silver Housing Bonus (SHB)
For instance, let’s say that the value of your flat is $500,000. If you are over 55 years old and decide to sell your existing flat and downsize to a unit 3-rooms or smaller, you may be eligible for the Silver Housing Bonus (SHB). This will enable you to earn a cash bonus of up to $30,000 if you top up at least $60,000 from your sales proceeds into your CPF Retirement Account (RA).
2. Lease Buyback Scheme
In addition, through the Lease Buyback Scheme, you can sell part of the remaining lease of your flat while still living in it, and proceeds from the sale can be used to top up your CPF RA.
3. Deferred Downpayment Scheme (DDS)
In the event that you downsize to a smaller flat, there are a couple of schemes available to help you manage your cash flow while waiting to sell your old flat and purchase a new one. For instance, the Deferred Downpayment Scheme (DDS) allows elderly citizens to defer the downpayments until after they’ve sold their existing flat and collected their keys.
4. Temporary Loan Scheme (TLS)
The Temporary Loan Scheme (TLS), on the other hand, allows the elderly to take up a temporary mortgage for their new home, which would be fully paid off once they’ve received the sales proceeds for their previous flat.
Other Options to Buy HDB Flat for Seniors
There are also schemes and grants which enable seniors to purchase a home in a familiar environment or somewhere close to family. Through the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS), you stand a better chance of applying for a BTO flat or Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) unit in the same suburb as your married children for mutual care and support.
Likewise, the Senior Priority Scheme (SPS) aims to help you age well by living in a 2-room Flexi flat in a familiar neighbourhood, or one that’s close to your married child. Finally, the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) offers you a grant disbursement of up to $20,000 when you and your spouse purchase a resale flat that is within the 4km radius of your married children’s home.
If you need more guidance on how you should finance your home, PropertyGuru Finance can help. Simply reach out to our mortgage experts, and we’ll be happy to share personalised recommendations and advice at zero cost.
Other Considerations for Seniors Choosing a New Home
Cost and financing of your flat aside, there are other considerations you may want to make before you decide on which estate to move into. It may be helpful to ensure that HDB blocks in the estate come with features such as ramps and easy lift access, as these features can potentially make it easier for you to get home from a trip to the market or from visiting your grandchildren.
In addition, safety is an important consideration when it comes to planning your living space, regardless of whether you are living alone or with family members/caregivers. To that end, you may want to ensure that your home is equipped with relevant safety features such as guard rails and anti-slip floorings. You can opt for features such as flooring, sanitary fittings and internal doors to be installed under the Optional Component Scheme (OCS). However, these features are mainly available for the 2-room Short Lease Flexi Flats, and installations can cost anywhere from $2,600 to $7300 depending on the package and type of features you require.
Besides OCS, the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) is another Government initiative aimed at minimising inconveniences to residents. In particular, to cater to senior citizens, the scheme consists of Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) improvements, which include features such as ramps, grab bars and slip-resistant tiles that will be beneficial to the mobility and safety of seniors across various housing estates.
In the case of EASE, these improvements come with a 95% subsidy of the total cost ($2,500 to $4,000). As such, residents in a participating HDB block/estate would only need to pay about $125 to $480 for these improvements. However, do note that for EASE improvements to be carried out near your home, your estate must first be selected for the improvements. Following that, a poll is to be carried out where majority of residents in the estate would need to be in favour of the improvements.
Still Unsure if You should Purchase a New Home?
As we have mentioned, some housing options that may be suitable for you include the short-term 2-room Flexi flats and Community Care Apartments. In addition, there are various schemes to help you ease your financial burden and make your living space safe for you in your silver years. If all of this sounds a lot of information, don’t fret! You can always seek help from your family members or an experienced advisor to find out the best way to meet your home purchase needs.
Furthermore, it is also important to exercise financial prudence by making sure that the home you purchase falls within your budget. You can use PropertyGuru’s Affordability Calculator to find out if you can afford the property that you’re interested in.
American singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett once said, “Wrinkles will only go where the smiles have been”. In a similar fashion, it is very important to age well and live a fulfilled life in your twilight years. By first choosing a home where you can live independently while being able to rely on others when needed, you’d be well on your way towards that goal!Chat with us on Whatsapp Fill up an online form
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