Home owners whose renovation works were disrupted will be given priority to restart them in phase one of the post-circuit breaker period, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong yesterday.

The Government will consider allowing new home renovation projects to proceed earlier if contractors can show that appropriate measures are in place, he added.

He was responding to Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), who asked about home owners who bought homes prior to the circuit breaker, only to find themselves unable to move in because renovation works were disrupted.

Ms Lim noted that the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has placed works by individual households in a category that would resume in later phases of reopening.

Mr Wong clarified that home renovations will resume in two stages, with projects already under way allowed to proceed first.

“For new projects, we will defer, or we will suggest to the home owners and contractors who are embarking on new renovation projects that these be will pushed back later. So settle the existing ongoing one first,” he said.

But he added: “We have indeed made the commitment that if there is any contractor who will come forward and say – I have the workers, they are safe, I have the measures in place, and I would like to be prioritised ahead in phase one – we will be prepared to consider such cases as well.”

(Related: Six apps to help with home renovation)

He also said the authorities had put in place measures to help home buyers whose moving and renovation plans were affected.

At the start of the circuit breaker, some exemptions had been made to allow minor works to be quickly completed so that homes could be made safe and people could move in quickly, he said.

For those who could not complete their renovation works, the Government had looked at whether the transaction timelines could be pushed back, and if home owners who were impacted could move in with relatives and friends.

It had also worked with service apartment operators to offer subsidised rates for impacted home owners needing temporary accommodation.

He added that for cases that “are really urgent and have difficulties, (we are looking at) offering interim rental flats”.

Mr Wong also said there is no change to the rules for the minimum rental periods – six months for Housing Board flats and three months for private residential properties.

However, in view of the Covid-19 situation, HDB and the Urban Redevelopment Authority have been exercising flexibility on a case-by-case basis for households that are in genuine difficulty and need temporary accommodation, he noted.

He said his ministry will remind the agencies to be “prompt and responsive to some of these appeals when they show up”.

“We will continue to do whatever we can to assist them,” he added.

During a briefing on May 15, BCA chief executive Hugh Lim had said that building contractors will gradually resume operations from June 2, starting with critical projects.

Most construction work was suspended when the circuit breaker began on April 7, with only 5 per cent of the construction workforce, or about 20,000 people, continuing to work. BCA expects this to double to 10 per cent next month.

However, those involved in home renovation say work could be delayed even after they are allowed to resume, given the labour crunch and the need to meet a stringent set of requirements.

Originally published in The Straits Times.