Flats built between 1987 and 1997 will be eligible for the upgrade under the extended Home Improvement Programme (HIP), HDB announced on 30 March 2020. The first batch of 55,000 units will be offered the extended HIP starting from this year.

Heavy bamboo poles loaded with laundry will soon be a thing of the past in some 230,000 Housing Board flats, as they will be replaced with a new retractable clothes drying rack.

The new laundry rack comes with six horizontal stainless steel poles that can be extended and retracted within the frame of the rack. Developed by HDB, the rack is designed with elderly residents in mind and is safer to use as residents would no longer need to lift and manoeuvre heavy bamboo poles out of the kitchen window, said HDB.

It was first piloted at Block 641 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 in 2018 to test its functionality and robustness, such as whether it could withstand Singapore’s weather. HDB said residents gave feedback that the rack requires less effort to use. The retractable rack will replace the current T-shaped rack which provides support on both ends of the laundry poles in the current HIP.

The extended HIP package also includes repairing structural cracks, replacing piping for waste or soil discharge, and upgrading the electrical load. Upgrading works for these “essentials” are fully paid for by the Government.

The package has also been refreshed with more contemporary and better-quality home fittings for the optional improvement items.

These include laminated timber front doors that are more scratch-resistant and durable, in place of veneer doors, and a modern steel grille entrance gate with an interior thumb-turn knob, which can be unlocked from the inside without the use of a key, in place of the current mild steel gate.

For bathroom wall and floor tiles, residents can pick from a range of designs. Tile sizes are also larger than previously offered.

Better-quality water-efficient sanitary fittings such as taps and water cisterns will have a rating of at least “very good” under national water agency PUB’s Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme.

Flat owners who choose these optional improvement items will pay subsidised rates of between 5 and 12.5 per cent of the costs, which will come up to between $550 and $1,375, depending on flat type.

Flat owners… will pay subsidised rates of between 5 and 12.5 per cent of the costs, which will come up to between $550 and $1,375, depending on flat type.

The extended HIP will be gradually rolled out to all other eligible flats over the years, although HDB did not specify a timeframe. The programme can proceed only when at least 75 per cent of a block’s eligible households that are made up of Singapore citizens have voted for it.

Introduced in 2007, HIP focuses on improvements within the flat and addresses common maintenance problems related to ageing flats.

Previously available only for flats built up to 1986, the expansion of the programme to the second batch of flats was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech in August 2018.

The extended HIP will cost the Government more than S$2 billion. Town councils will be responsible for the laundry racks’ maintenance, as part of common property.

Madam Jahara Bakroon, an Ang Mo Kio resident in the trial block, said she prefers the new rack over the old bamboo poles for its convenience and safety. “I’m very happy with it because it’s very easy to use and clean. Last time, the bamboo poles were too heavy so I seldom put my clothes outside,” said the 72-year-old cleaner.

Engineer Dannie Prenda, 56, who opted for all the bathroom upgrades for his four-room flat in Bukit Batok, said: “This will alleviate maintenance problems down the road and add to the service life of the flat, which my wife and I plan to live in for the rest of our lives.”

Article originally published under the headline Retractable drying rack among new upgrades for ageing flats in The Strait Times.