Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin
Nominated Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) how does the Ministry work with HDB to solve housing issues of single unwed mothers who are too well-off to qualify for a rental flat but too poor to buy a flat;
(b) why does the Ministry believe that home ownership and not rental access is the better long-term solution to help families escape poverty; and
(c) how does the Ministry help single mothers balance the financial trade-offs between working for more income versus having their rental go up once their income goes up.
Single unwed parents with housing difficulties can approach HDB for assistance and advice on their housing options. Where necessary, HDB would refer the parents to MSF and social service agencies for counselling and support. MSF works closely with HDB and social service agencies to help address their family and relationship issues and to provide financial and employment assistance. Each family will be assisted based on their individual circumstances, and the agencies will work with them to achieve housing stability.
We believe that homeownership is a better long-term solution for families than rental because it provides a greater sense of stability and gives families an asset, allowing them to share in Singapore’s progress. Monthly instalments for sold flats can also be paid using CPF monies, unlike rental housing which must be paid in cash. This will save some cash for families and help them with their immediate cash positions.
HDB also recognises the needs of low-income households who cannot afford to own a flat immediately and have no family support, and provides public rental flats as temporary housing for them. Public rental tenants with higher incomes pay higher rent than those with lower incomes. This ensures that subsidies are progressive and targeted at those who need more help. However, HDB also exercises flexibility. For instance, for tenants whose monthly income has just improved from the lowest income tier to the next, HDB could waive their rent increase at tenancy renewal so that they can continue to pay the lower rent for another two years. After two years, if their income increase is still low relative to the rent increase, HDB will continue to waive the rent increase for another two years.
With these waivers, tenants effectively have up to four years to improve their incomes to be better off than before, even after taking into account any rental increases. We thus encourage tenants to focus on improving their incomes. This is a surer and better way to increase disposable incomes, and to eventually go beyond public rental to homeownership.
Families who face difficulties can continue to approach their nearest Social Service Office or Family Service Centre for assistance.