Mr Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC)
To ask the Minister for Law (a) if he will provide a status update on the Government's acquisition of the 29 houses at Marymount Terrace; and (b) whether the compensation package will take into consideration the challenges faced by the families and the overall landscape of the property market since the date the properties were gazetted for acquisition so that the residents will not be worse off after the acquisition of their properties.
Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC)
Question To ask the Minister for Law if he will provide a status update on the Government's acquisition of the six houses along Jalan Kuak.
In the cases which Mr Zainudin and Mr Hri Kumar refer to, Government had to acquire 29 terrace houses at Marymount Terrace and six terrace houses at Jalan Kuak to facilitate the construction of the North-South Expressway. LTA had carried out detailed studies on the alignment of the expressway to minimise the acquisition of private land. Unfortunately, we could not avoid acquiring some private property. Land acquisition is not undertaken lightly.
We recognise the distress and the negative consequences to the residents whose homes are acquired. To assist the residents, from the time the Gazette notifications were issued, SLA officers have been visiting the affected residents at their homes to understand their circumstances and hear their requests. The respective MPs such as Mr Zainudin and Mr Hri Kumar have also met the residents on several occasions. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Law Sim Ann and I have also met many affected residents to understand their concerns. Throughout, the purpose of these meetings and our approach have been to see how best the Government can help each one of them. But it is not possible to give in or to accept one fundamental request which some of them have – which is not to proceed with the acquisition.
Mr Zainudin and Mr Hri Kumar asked for a status update of the acquisitions in respect of the houses along Marymount Terrace and Jalan Kuak. In July 2011, after the professional valuers engaged by SLA finalised the valuation for these acquired properties, SLA informed the owners of the quantum of compensation. Some of the owners have accepted the award. Others have filed an appeal to the Land Acquisition Appeals Board.
Mr Zainudin asked whether the compensation package takes into consideration the challenges faced by the affected families so that the residents will not be worse off after the acquisition of their properties.
We are doing our best to help the affected owners. First and foremost, this means paying them a fair compensation for their properties. Under the Land Acquisition Act, which we amended in 2007, Government’s statutory compensation is now based on the market value of the properties.
Several residents who were affected by the recent acquisitions have accepted the valuation arrived at by our valuers. Others believe that the valuation for their properties should be higher. They have exercised their statutory right of appeal and in their cases, the Land Acquisition Appeals Board will decide on the quantum of compensation.
In addition, to assist the residents, we have done the following:
(1) We increased the advance payment which we give to affected owners before they hand over the property. They will get 40 per cent of the statutory compensation upfront. This is to help them in the process of buying another property;
(2) We have also obtained approval internally for owners to be exempted from the recently implemented 60 per cent Loan-to-Value requirement, if they need to take a loan for the replacement property;
(3) After residents have transferred physical possession of the properties to the State, and collected the full statutory compensation, meaning 100 per cent, if they wish to continue staying on in the properties for a period of time before their replacement property is ready, they will be able to do so; the period for which they can stay on depends on when works on the acquired property will start, They will be able to stay on at the properties at subsidised rental rates for two years;
(4) Even with the benefit of these measures, some owners may still face specific hardship due to their own individual circumstances. My ministry’s approach is to look at individual cases to see what further assistance we can give, and we have done so in the past.
I thank Mr Zainudin, Mr Hri Kumar and other members who have been working closely with us on the recent land acquisitions for their help.