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SERS flats to be rented out to foreigners again – this time in Bedok

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Andrew Loh / Leong Sze Hian / Special thanks to Lynn Lee

“If everybody jumps onto this safety net, whether they deserve to or they don't, that safety net is going to break. … They could easily afford a studio apartment or a small resale flat. They...should not be competing with needy families for rental flats... We need to take decisive steps to correct this."  - Mah Bow Tan, 6 Jan 2010, Straits Times.

Blocks 46 to 50 in Bedok South Avenue 3 was selected for the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme – SERS – in 2004. All the residents of the block have been relocated. The HDB has put up notices at the void decks of the neighbouring blocks to inform residents of the plan for blocks 46 to 50.

Its notice, among other things, says:

Pending the future redevelopment of the site, residential units in these blocks [46 to 50] will be put to temporary use. HDB will be engaging a Managing Agent to lease out the flats. The Managing Agent will be commencing renovation works at the blocks in the next few months.

The majority of the flats will be leased to Singapore Citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents and students. The rest will be leased to S Pass and Employment pass holders. These are professionals, executives and [supervisory?] staff. There will be no construction and marine sector workers in these flats. Some flats will be reserved as Interim Rental Housing for needy Singaporean families in financial difficulty with temporary accommodation.

Under the HDB's eligibility rules for public rental flats, foreigners, permanent residents, students, S Pass and Employment Pass holders (who by definition are foreigners), are not eligible to rent public rental flats from the HDB.

Image252So, why is it that HDB flats are being rented to these non-citizens, when needy Singaporeans have to wait up to years to get a rental flat?

Has the HDB ever announced the above policy shift to the media?

Has this shift in public housing policy, given HDB's mission to provide affordable housing to Singaporeans (not foreigners), ever been disclosed in Parliament?

As to "the majority of flats will be leased to Singapore Citizens", how many flats and blocks in total are now currently being leased to non-citizens?

If none of our HDB flats are rented to non-citizens, does it mean that no needy Singaporean will have to be deprived of a rental flat now?

What is the ratio of flats rented to non-citizens to Singaporeans?

Is the Managing Agent EM Services, like the two flats in Toa Payoh being rented to the Integrated Resorts' foreign workers?

If the answer is yes, then, how does the HDB, as the majority owner of EM Services, deal with the possible conflict of interest as the sole provider of housing to needy Singaporeans from $26 rental a month compared to the much higher rental and profits if flats are rented to non-citizens?

As these are SERS flats, in a sense, they were taken from Singaporeans and given to foreigners.

Finally, we think the issue is not whether the flats are being rented to "professionals, executives and staff" and not "construction and marine sector workers", but one of accountability and transparency on the contention of renting much needed flats to non-citizens.

Perhaps SERS may have acquired a new meaning - Scheme to Exclude Residents who are Singaporeans!

300 new applicants join the rental queue every month, the number of people returning flats is less than half of that. Over and above that, there are over 500 appeals from MPs each month, from those who do not qualify for rental housing, who are not registered in the queue at the moment. I am sure all of you would know that this is probably the largest item on the agenda, as far as MPS is concerned.

There are now 4,550 applicants on the rental queue. Some are really in need of help but they are in the queue waiting. They have no other housing options and the rental flat is the final safety net for their families.

Mah Bow Tan, 6 Jan 2010.

**The Online Citizen welcomes any response from the HDB or its Managing Agent. We can be reached at [email protected]

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