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HDB – A new boss and a new direction equal new policies?

Andy Soon/

Mr Khaw Boon Wan’s blog mentioned the young couples, divorcees with children and low income families as HDB’s new priorities.

Mr Khaw has hit the nail on the head when he mentioned these three groups. Young Singaporeans such as us, in the 20s to 30s group, are indeed worried that by the time we intend to settle down, we will be held back by huge housing bank loans that are going to take us 30 years to repay.

With regards to the above, rather than increasing the salary cap for young couples from $8000 to $10,000, more can be done to ensure that HDB flats ARE really affordable.

For example, Mr Khaw should consider increasing the salary cap for subsidies with regards to purchase of flats. A combined salary of $5,000 is really not a lot, especially when there are the utilities bills, telephone bills, daily expenses to think of. Inflation of four to five per cent nowadays seem to to be the norm, compared to previous years. A combined salary of $5,000 will be further eroded if couples intend to start families as costs for education and childcare go on a upward spiral, leaving nothing much in terms of savings for old age.

It seems very illogical that when HDB prices have risen by 50 to 60 per cent fold (depending on which reports you read), this salary cap remains stagnant and also at a point where Singapore citizens do not see their salaries increasing in proportion with the property market boom.

In addition, Mr Khaw wants to build more BTOs in mature estates to cater to young people who want to stay near their parents. This is a wonderful idea. However, mature estates are always more popularand applicants will definitely be coming in from all over the place. Besides giving those who are already staying in the area first priority, perhaps age should be a factor to consider. Older couples should be given first priority as well.

As Mr Khaw has stated himself, his objective is to ensure that young couples can have their own house and start a family. Age is therefore important as firstly, it takes three years to build a BTO. A couple in their early 30s wanting to start a family will have to wait for 3 years. By then, the lady will be in her mid 30s, not exactly an ideal age for having babies. Therefore, in order to help boost the baby ratio, it might actually be feasible to consider the age factor.

For divorcees with children, or single parents, HDB should adopt a more caring and case-by-case basis on handling such issues and should not use the salary ceiling as a reason to dismiss applications. Single parents have more mouths to feed and have different needs and aspirations for their choldren. They might also be the only one supporting ailing parents and that is where their salaries are definitely not enough. Counselors should give them advice and render aid where it is applicable or appeal on their behalf on a case-by-case basis.

As for low income families, it is heartening that more rental flats will be coming up to assist them. However, it will also take time to build the rental flats as Singapore is currently in shortage of supply.

Mr Khaw will have to look long and hard at their existing problems now and solve their lodging issues before the rental flats are up. It is a tough task rectifying the mess left behind by Mr Mah Bow Tan during his tenure as the Minister for National Development. However, at the moment, Mr Khaw appears to be pushing all the right buttons.

The verdict, however, is not based on what Mr Khaw says presently but the results five years from now. Lets hope Mr Khaw’s initiatives bear good fruits.