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There is one thing worse than an Enbloc ----- and that is an Enbloc done badly. Since the majority have the necessary mandate to sell, then they owe it to all SPs to make a success of it. Minority SPs can only watch and wait, if they sell then lets pray it's at a price we can move on with, if they don't sell, then we are happy to stay for a few more years.

Property agent appeal

The poor property agents aren't making any money from enbloc anymore hence their plea for ...

Room for improvement in en bloc laws

Business Times – 24 Sep 2009

Rather a long-winded boring letter, no one needs a history lesson on en bloc, we've all lived through it for 10 years. Apart from mooting a change from 10 yrs to 15 yrs (which wouldn't have much effect anyway), the author wasn't able to verbalise explicitly what he wanted. What property agents want is a return to the working model of non- transparency and unaccountability which worked so well for them in the past. Sale committees don't want to say up front they are flippers, bankrupts, jobless etc, property agents don't want their nicely pre-arranged deals unravelling by returning to the majority for approval. If you ask me, en bloc in it's present form is dead. The government can't turn the clock back to the corrupt practices of the past. It is an appeal in futility.
Extracts: To mitigate the effects of ‘majority rule’, safeguards were put in place to protect the rights of the non-consenting minority owners. The key tenet was that any deal must be entered in good faith.
In good faith being the operative word here. Mr Singh seems to forget about that later in the letter...

While the increase in property prices did contribute to the increase, the ability to maximise development potential and extract value was the major factor.
I have no doubt that 'extra value' was extracted from these developments, but am leery as to whom it went to.
It was also during this period that the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDC), a unit of the government, started building affordable flats on a large scale for the then ’sandwiched’ group of middle-income families. Among them were Farrer Court, Pine Grove, Gillman Heights and Laguna Park.
These projects are now close to 40 years old. Soon, they will start looking old and tired. In many countries, old and dilapidated buildings become breeding grounds for crime and vice. While this is not likely in Singapore, the real danger is that these developments may become enclaves of older Singaporeans. This is clearly not the way to go for a dynamic and vibrant Singapore.
Old and tired? Dilapidated? There are rules requiring the management council to keep the estate up to the mark. Painting every 5 years etc and a lot falls on the owners themselves to spruce the place up.
But the real insult here is the "ENCLAVE FOR OLDER SINGAPOREANS'! And that such people are deemed to be "NOT THE WAY TO GO FOR DYNAMIC AND VIBRANT SINGAPORE!'.
So people in the same neighbourhood should not be allowed to grow old together? That there comes a time, perhaps, when they must move in order not to be seen to bunch together?? We have HDB Block quotas for races but none, I think, for old people. Are private owners to keep tabs on how old their neighbours are getting relative to themselves in order to calculate when the time is ripe for them to move out? What is wrong with older people anyway? Is Mr. Singh guilty of ageism? Old dilapidated, tired buildings full of old dilapidated tired people MUST be en blocked for the good of Singapore! They are in the way - move them out, shunt them elsewhere, (JB was once suggested by our good Minister of Health, Mr Kaw). We really can't have these old people cluttering up good land, now can we. New estates must be peopled with young couples (with lots of money) - out with the old, in with the new.
Mr. Singh conveniently forgets that private estates have a way of rejuvenating themselves - hasn't he heard of the resale market? Tampines Court has had a 10% turnover since Aug 2008, and while I don't have any information on the demographics of either the sellers or buyers - I can rationally assume that they weren't all old fogies selling and all geriatrics buying. The picture Mr. Singh paints of older estates and their owners is patently not true.
In Europe, buildings built centuries ago still remain habitable, besides being rich in character, history and beauty. The city centres of London, Paris and Prague have buildings that are hundreds of years old. Sadly, this is not the case in Singapore. In the immediate post-independence period, the real estate and construction industry was not inspired to build legacies of lasting beauty, but instead put up affordable, practical homes. As such, not many buildings of the 1960-70s are serious contenders for preservation on architectural grounds; and they have little if no historical significance. It is mainly the colonial era buildings that the planners feel should be conserved.

Architecturally, Singapore has no great buildings to speak of post colonial era. But architectural grounds have not been behind any minority objection that I can think of. And just because a building is not exactly top-of-the-charts in beauty, it should not automatically qualify for demolition at age 10yrs+ . Besides buildings alone do not make for a dynamic and vibrant Singapore - people do. And people don't want their neighbourhoods, their childhood memories, their friendships, landmarks and connections all destroyed for profit.
If Singapore did not have the law that allowed for the majority of the owners to push through an en bloc sale, probably the only other way to rejuvenate these ageing developments would be for the government to acquire them compulsorily. However, the owners would at best be paid market value of the individual apartments, without any benefit of the redevelopment potential factored in. It would also bring the government into a sector where there is no immediate public interest at stake.
'The only other way'? Surely not. If the Government wanted to do right by the owners it would make it mandatory for owners to be given 2 options - a cash sale or a decent 1-for-1 exchange in the new estate, thus preserving all the ties necessary for owners to stay and make for that vibrant and dynamic place.

The 80 per cent en bloc law made it possible for the private sector to take the lead in maximising the value of scarce land, rejuvenating old developments and allowing owners, rather than the government or developers, to benefit from increasing property prices.
Ask Waterfront View HUDC owners, Gillman Heights owners how they feel about being shortchanged! Ask them if they can stay in their preferred area. Ask the developers how much money they are making with their new developments! The truth is xx-HUDC owners downgrade and downsize - developers double/triple their profits and treat ex-owners like dirt..

It must be conceded that the manner in which the 80 per cent legislation was drafted in 1999 was not highly elaborate nor perfect. But it was principle-driven and worked well for a good eight years. It got the job done in facilitating urban renewal.

But where have the original owners moved to; Woodlands?

However, in 2007, the complexion of the en bloc sale process changed as the market heated up. There were mounting complaints that some majority owners were not entirely fair or transparent in their conduct. Minority sellers cried out for greater protection. Owners and developers got embroiled in litigation. Non-consenting owners challenged consenting owners in court. Developers threatened to sue owners who were attempting to back out of deals. The irony is that it was often the consenting owners who were fighting to back out of the very deal that they inked and were earlier championing.
True! and why was that? Unscrupulous sales committees, lawyers and property agents following the letter of the LTSA/CSA but not the spirit! Vested interest trumped fiduciary duty to majority owners and it was left to the minority owners to takes matters to the STB.

Fights grew more intense with cases going all the way to the Court of Appeal. About 10 cases went to the courts, with half of them making headlines for the bitter feuding. All of a sudden, en bloc sales became synonymous with trouble, disharmony and disorder. The principle behind the 80 per cent rule began to be questioned.

And whose fault was this? Not the minority owners - remember the tenet of the law was based on the deal being doe in GOOD FAITH - and clearly some were not up to that standard.

The cases that went to court did not reflect the reality of the matter. During the property bull run in 2006 and 2007, as many as 162 en bloc projects were sold successfully; but it was largely the five to 10 troubled cases that dominated the headlines.

You can't believe everything you read in the newspapers - the reality was much graver than the few cases that hit the headlines. In truth, the STB had a backlog the length of your arm, all minority owners outraged for one reason or another.

This created the perception that the en bloc laws were flawed.

But the en bloc laws were flawed, you said it yourself 'It must be conceded that the manner in which the 80 per cent legislation was drafted in 1999 was not highly elaborate nor perfect'!. Are you saying the authorities reacted in a knee jerk reaction without first thinking the situtaion through? Do you not recall the Public Consultation that was held in 2007 and the parliamentary discussion thereafter? Were they all wrong?

The laws that had worked well for eight years suddenly seemed to need fixing. In October 2007, the government reacted by tightening the laws to raise the bar on transparency and accountability on the part of the majority owners handling the sale process, and further safeguards were put in place.
As a result, owners who would have otherwise happily volunteered to serve in the collective sale committee, today fight shy of getting involved. The fear of being sued by minorities or purchasers and exposure to liability keeps them on the sidelines.
Absoutley! I don't want a 'happy volunteer' who is also an idiot underselling my home! Get rid of the sale committee altogether - devise a new way!
We believe the law makers should look towards moderating some of the new provisions. There is no way that any rule can please everyone. Democracy goes by majority rule.

Majority rules - but only with GOOD FAITH.

For minority owners who genuinely do not wish to be forced to sell their homes, perhaps the authorities could consider raising the threshold age of a development for which the 80 per cent rule would apply, from the current 10 years to 15 years.

Not enough. The problem lies with the cowboy tactics of the players involved. Upping the age fixes nothing.

There are bound to be other approaches to renewal and maximisation of land use, but making en bloc sales difficult will take us back to the situation 10 years ago. Until a new solution is found, we need to ensure that en-bloc sales remain workable.
SOLUTION: (I never tire of repeating this).... 1-4-1-exchange.

By KARAMJIT SINGH AND PAMELA KOW – managing director and manager at Credo Real Estate respectively


  1. Alfred Chong29 September, 2009

    1 for 1 exchange? I still not comfortable with that. For 1, the unit they give us will be much much smaller than the ones we give up. And I don't think they will let us have the choice units either. The other problem is that during the moving out and construction phase, which can take up to 3 or 4 years, where are we going to stay? And are they paying for our rentals too? How are we to resolve that? I think the best is still fairness in the prices of our units, and of course the option of a 1 for 1 exchange to those who need it.

  2. Yes, it can't be just a blank 1-4-1; preconditions must be set but if they sell the new untis in the new estate for $1.5million (look all around that is what happens) - you would have preserved the value of your TC unit at least.

    If you sign for $1million cash and 2 years later receive it in your bank account - only to find that that it is fit to buy a HDB maisonette - you would have lost the equity on your original home/ investment.

    It must be a SECOND choice option as you say, for those who want it.

  3. I think 1-4-1 with cash on the side would be a win win case for both residents and developers. Heard that talk of 1 to 1.2 has been surfacing. If an apartment can be accorded to all who wanted to continue staying and cash of say 250000 0r 300000 i think that would be a real good deal. Let look into a credble organisation like Credo etc...