Reflecting on “Reflections” – A review of Mah Bow Tan’s book (Part 7 of 9)

This is a review from a statistical perspective, wherever possible, of the book “Reflections on housing a nation”, launched on 22 March. (You can read it here for free and save yourself ten dollars. – Editor)


Leong Sze Hian/

In Part Six (“Housing for the Lower Income”), the Minister for National Development wrote:

“Take the case of Mdm P.  She was only 35 when she divorced her husband and was awarded custody of her two young children. She was not working and had no income. Her future seemed bleak.

After assessing Mdm P’s case, HDB helped her with a subsidised rental flat.  Seven years on, Mdm P has a good steady job and has moved her family to a three-room HDB flat in Sengkang. She pays for her housing loan almost entirely out of her CPF contribution.  Mdm P is hopeful of the future for her and her family”

For every Mdm P who is helped by the HDB, there may be many other divorcees whose lives become shattered by the HDB’s policies on divorcees.

According to the HDB’s web site:

“If there are no children from the marriage, the divorced party (flat owner) may retain the flat under the Single Singapore Citizen (SSC) Scheme, provided:

  • he / she is a Singapore citizen
  • he / she is at least 35 years old

the matrimonial flat must be a resale flat purchased from the open market without the CPF Housing Grant for Family”.

So, the problem is what if you are a permanent resident (PR)? If you are below 35 year old? If you bought a new flat directly from HDB, instead of a resale flat? If you bought a resale flat, but with a CPF Housing Grant for Family?

Moreover, HDB requires you to cancel your existing HDB loan, and take another one. So, what if you do not qualify for a loan, or the loan amount which you need?

Also, the other spouse’s CPF utilised plus accrued interest has to be returned to his or her CPF account. What if you do not have the CPF or cash or loan to do this?

“If the matrimonial flat is bought directly from HDB (including resale flats bought with the CPF Housing Grant for Family), the 5-year minimum occupation period (MOP) must be satisfied before the divorced party is allowed to take over the flat under the SSC Scheme.

If the divorced owners wish to resell their flat in the open market, they must have completed the MOP for the flat, as at the date of divorce completion. If the divorce is within the MOP and none of the owners is eligible to retain the flat, the owners may have to return the flat to HDB, subject to HDB’s approval. The compensation for the return of flat will be determined by HDB”.

What this means is that if you have not completed the MOP, HDB may compulsorily acquire your flat and compensate you with an amount which I understand may be way below the market and Cash-over-valuation (COV) value.

“Under the HDB’s prevailing policy for divorce (not due to non-consummation of marriage or annulment or break-up of Fiancé / Fiancée relationship), a divorced party who has the custody of the child (including care and control) is allowed to retain the flat subject to the eligibility conditions”

What if you do not have custody of the children? If you cannot get a loan to meet all the financial obligations described above?

If you are a divorcee, you may apply to buy an HDB flat or be listed as an occupier after 5 years from the date the divorce is made absolute to the date of application for a new flat if your matrimonial flat was:

“Bought directly from HDB,

A DBSS flat bought under the CPF Housing Grant Scheme, or

A resale flat bought from open market under the CPF Housing Grant Scheme

However, the 5 years period will not apply if:

The matrimonial flat was bought from the open market without any CPF Housing Grant

You are applying for the flat with your parents or new spouse”

What this means is that divorcees are also barred from applying for a new flat for five years, unless you remarry, or apply with your parent(s) who do not own a HDB flat, and can meet all the eligibility rules.

So many “ifs”?

So, with all the above “ifs”, is it any wonder that so many divorcees have housing problems? Sadly, it is often the children, who do not undersatand why they no longer have a home – can you imagine the parent trying to explain the HDB’s policies that may be the cause of their housing woes to their children?

Uniquely Singapore!

Let the numbers do the talking?

In this connection, here are some questions on HDB statistics:-

How many HDB rental flat tenants have been evicted for failing to pay rents?

Would the additional 7,500 rental flats to be built over the next three years be enough, given that the waiting period and the waiting list itself are so long?

Where do the homeless sleep in the meantime?

How many homeless shelters, in terms of the number of units and occupiers, are there in total in Singapore?

How many homeless are on the waiting list for such shelters?

How many homeless are housed under the Interim Housing Scheme?

How many homeless in the Interim Housing Scheme have been evicted for failing to pay rents?

If the 2,200 SERS flats and other non-SERS flats rented to foreigners are rented to Singaporeans instead, does it mean that there will be no homeless, and no waiting list in the queue for HDB rental flats?

How many homeless people have been taken away for staying in public places?

How many homeless people have been fined for illegally staying in public places?

How many HDB flats have been repossessed by the HDB?

How many HDB flat owners have been forced to sell their flats in the open market?

End of Part 7

Also read Part 6 here

Mr Leong has beaten Mr Mah by publishing a book in 2008. It has no pictures but at 186 pages (with Chinese translation), is more value for money. You can buy it here!