Straits Times: WP chief: HDB blocked lift upgrading in Hougang

BY ZAKIR HUSSAIN

WORKERS’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang yesterday revealed the obstacles that he faced in trying to upgrade lifts in his constituency, Hougang.

His comments come in the wake of the Housing Board disputing another opposition MP’s account of his difficulty with lift upgrading.

The HDB said it was because of a law that Mr Chiam See Tong could not use his town council’s sinking fund to provide lifts that stop on every floor for some blocks in his Potong Pasir constituency.

Last August, the law was changed. The Town Councils Act now allows up to 10 per cent of a council’s sinking funds to be used for lift upgrading if the cost for each home that gained from it did not exceed $5,000.

In his press statement, Mr Low, however, pointed out that the Act does not disallow town councils from introducing lifts that stop on every floor. In 2000, the HDB approved such upgrading and the Hougang Town Council paid the entire bill. But in 2002, similar lift upgrading works were not approved by the HDB, he said.

Giving details, Mr Low said HDB gave its nod in August 2000 to the upgrading of 16 lifts in six blocks in Hougang Avenue 3 and 7. The work was completed in October 2001.

But in December 2002, the HDB did not allow the same to be done to 58 lifts in Blocks 301 to 334 in Hougang Avenue 5 and 7. The town council later replaced the lifts as they were old, he said.

But the lifts could not stop on every floor because landowner HDB had refused to approve it, Mr Low said, adding: “The law was not the reason.”

HDB’s reason for saying “no” was not given in his statement yesterday but the subject was reported in the Hougang Town Council’s annual report ending March 31 last year.

It said: “According to the HDB, the town council would not be fair to all residents as the additional landings created would not serve all the residents of the blocks.”

It also said: “The fact that the town council would progressively work towards providing this by first upgrading the existing lifts was not acceptable either to the HDB.”

In Potong Pasir’s case, Mr Chiam had blamed HDB for thwarting his plans to upgrade the lifts in six point blocks in Toa Payoh Lorong 8.

Responding, HDB pointed out that despite the change in the Town Councils Act, Mr Chiam had not made any application to use the council’s sinking fund for lift upgrading.

Mr Chiam replied that by the time the law was changed, the lift upgrading works had been completed.

Lift upgrading looks set to be key in the People’s Action Party’s quest to recapture the two opposition-held wards in the coming General Election.

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