Detectives in Disguise

To ensure the proper handover of a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat earmarked for demolition under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS), HDB officers often have to channel their inner Sherlock Holmes to track down missing owners.
Top, from left: Mr Tan Wee Teck; Mr See Cheng San; Mr Chan Yong Chin and Mr Chua Choon Keong, Eric. Bottom, from left: Mr Seah Eng Poh; Mr Wee Tien Chwee, Malcom; Mr Chan Chye Chin and Mr Seah Thian Poh, Bobby.

It's a job that sounds straightforward enough. A few years after a block of flats is announced for the SERS, officers from the HDB are tasked to take possession of the flats. They make their way to the individual units, hand the former homeowners cheques for compensation and take over the keys.

Yet things are not always so simple. Sometimes the owners are nowhere to be found, which means SERS officers then have to double up as investigators in their search for them.

In one case, Higher Technical Officer See Cheng San sought out a missing owner’s previous homes and spoke with several people, before he found out that she had moved to Malaysia. He managed to contact her in the end, to his relief. “Because we didn’t give up, we got in touch with these [missing homeowners],” says the 56-year-old, so that they would be informed of their housing status and could receive their compensation.

Officers from the 8-man SERS team liaise with the relatives of these owners – who can be reluctant to help at times – to work out the housing options together.

Homeowners who have run afoul of the law and are imprisoned get help too, as the unsung heroes from the HDB make multiple trips to the prison to discuss housing issues with them.

No matter who the owner is and what he has done, he still has the right to know his housing status and be helped so that he can have a roof over his head, says the team’s leader, Tan Wee Teck. This simple conviction, backed by patience and perseverance, is what moves him and his team to deliver their best service to the public.

    Mar 18, 2013
    Heng Yishi
    Justin Loh
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