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Rachel Au-Yong
Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Singapore

MPs seek solutions to ensure all floors have lift facility

The Straits Times | Rachel Au-Yong | Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Property experts and agents took a cautious view of the pickup in activity, noting that it was partly due to the end of the traditionally quiet festive period.

SINGAPORE - As the end of the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) draws near, some MPs have again called for new ways to tackle the issue of those blocks left without a lift facility on every floor.

The $5.5 billion programme, which ends in December, has provided lift facilities on every floor in 5,000, or 98 per cent, of Housing Board flats in the past 13 years.

But doing the same for the remaining 200 blocks would be very costly, given their configuration and technical constraints, Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan said in Parliament yesterday.

"We are piloting some possible (new technological) solutions," he said.

"However, we require some time to assess their suitability."

It prompted four MPs to come up with suggestions in a flash.

Workers' Party's Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) asked if the LUP could be amended to allow for "marginally more expensive" installations.

Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) suggested raising the ceiling of the cost.

The Government sets a cost limit of $30,000 for each flat, and subsidises up to 90 per cent of it.

But, Mr Lee said, "the costs aren't just marginal - they're as good as building new flats".

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) then proposed that the Government give the $30,000 to elderly and disabled residents in these blocks to help them move to blocks with lifts on every floor.

But, Mr Lee pointed out, "some people prefer to stay in the same place rather than move away".

He, however, welcomed Ms Phua's idea of working on temporary solutions like installing "wheelchair slides" onto staircases, which would help those who need lifts to get from floor to floor easily.

Ms Phua also asked if there was a programme in which more Singaporeans could be roped in to propose "temporary or permanent solutions for this important issue".

Mr Lee pointed to the $500,000 Cool Ideas Fund as an avenue for ideas, like Ms Phua's, to take off. The HDB will match, dollar for dollar, the money would-be inventors pump into their project, up to $10,000.

Meanwhile, Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) asked if the Government would consider extending the LUP beyond December, "should there be advancements in engineering... in which we can install (lifts) and reduce the amount payable to below the cost cap."

Yes, replied Mr Lee, as long as "the solutions make sense".

rachelay@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 15 in The Straits Times.

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