You think not having lift access on every floor isn’t a big deal? You’re wrong, and there are some reasons why needing to “just climb a few stairs” can suck more than think:

There are still 150 blocks of flats that can’t have 100 per cent lift access

HDB Void deck lift
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Without lift access, the mobility impaired are practically marooned in the flat

We’ve spent about $5 billion on the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP), which started way back in 2001. And to HDB’s credit, we upgraded a lot of HDB blocks; back then, there were 5,300 blocks without full lift access.

Now there’s only 150 blocks that still don’t have 100 per cent lift access on every floor; but they’re a tough issue to resolve. About 70 per cent of these blocks can’t have a lift because of cost concerns (under current regulations, lift installation in HDB blocks can’t cost more than $30,000). The remaining flats can’t have a lift because it’s flat-out (see what I did there?) impossible, due to technical and site issues.

Also, 75 per cent of the block has to agree to a lift upgrade (because they’re all going to foot part of the bill). The current cap on the cost is $3,000 per household. Yeah, that doesn’t sound good.

Not having a lift on your floor can become a huge deal

As this Straits Times article points out, life can get difficult without lift access. In fact, here’s a fun bit of trivia for you: before we had lifts, ground floor units were where the rich people stayed. The topmost floor used to be low SES, until lifts (and then penthouses) came along.

Here are a few ways lack of lift access can impact you today:

  • It might be a big problem as your other family members get older
  • Injured yourself? Lack of lift access can make things worse
  • Getting bulky things in and out of your HDB flat is a real pain
  • You may end up paying for lift upgrade, even if you don’t want it

1. It might be a big problem as your other family members get older

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Your elderly family members may not need a lift now, but what about in 10+ years?

So you can run five kilometers a day and have the stamina of a T-800, and you don’t need a lift. Great. But that may not be true for family members such as, say, your ageing parents.

However healthy your older family members are now, it’s fair to raise the possibility that they might need a lift in, say, 10 years or so. And in the event of mobility loss, such as being wheelchair bound, needing a walker, etc., elderly family members are marooned in your HDB flat without someone to help. If the rest of the family is working, that can mean having to hire help, such as a maid.

There’s also an increased risk of injury: every time your elderly folks go up or down the stairs, it comes with a slight chance of mishap.

And even if this doesn’t happen to your older family members, do you want them to be lugging grocery bags or struggling up the stairs every time they come home?

2. Injured yourself? Lack of lift access can make things worse

You won’t fully understand the value of a lift outside your door, until the first time you sprain an ankle, throw out your back, or suffer some other sort of injury that impairs your mobility.

If you’re at risk of this (e.g. you have a job that involves heavy lifting, or you take part in combat sports like MMA), bear in mind this potential extra hurdle in getting to and from home.

3. Getting bulky things in and out of your HDB flat is a real pain

Packing boxes
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Some delivery services will charge extra if your floor has no lift access

Just so you know, some movers will charge you extra if there’s no lift on your floor. It’s hard to blame them too, since moving a bed or giant dining table up the stairs – without damaging your things – is an exercise in pure frustration.

Likewise, you’ll have issues disposing of bulky items like old cabinets or TVs. Odds are, you’ll have to lug these things down at least two flights of stairs, before you can get them in the lift. This may have a restrictive impact on how you can furnish your home; as well as making it harder to move in.

4. You may end up paying for lift upgrade, even if you don’t want it

As we mentioned above, a lift upgrade happens if 75 per cent of the block agrees to it. When that happens, you have to pay for it whether you consent or not. And as we mentioned above, the cap is $3,000 per household. While it probably won’t reach that amount (because it’s hard to get votes for something that costs so much), the final amount can make a big dent in your wallet.

The only upside is that you may not mind paying, by the time it happens.

So is not having a lift on every floor a “Do Not Buy” sign?

Lack of lift access doesn’t mean the flat is bad – you need to consider other factors like location and price (we have free price comparisons for resale flats by area, on But bear in mind that lack of lift access is not as trivial an issue as some imagine. Always think of your comfort and convenience in the long term, if you’re planning to stay for over a decade.

What are your thoughts flats without lift access? Voice your thoughts in our comments section or on our Facebook community page.

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