By Leong Sze Hian

HDB affordable and always within reach of everyone?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his rally speech,

“We built record number of new flats, delinked new flat prices from resale market and allowed singles to buy BTO. We want to help Singaporeans own their own homes, raise loving families and build strong communities. I will make sure every Singaporean family who is working can afford a HDB flat. We can do that.”

“A family earning $1,000 can afford a 2-room flat. Those who earn $2,000 can buy 3-room flat. And those who earn S$4,000 can afford a 4-room flat if they use their CPF to pay off 25-year loan. We will give families who can afford 2-room flats Step-Up Housing Grants to help them upgrade to 3-room flats. We will also extend grants so that a middle-income household will get up to S$20,000 more if they buy a 4-room flat.”

“We will monitor housing affordability closely and make sure that an HDB flat is always within reach.”

I also understand that he said that the poorest Singaporeans have an asset of an average value of $200,000 in an HDB flat.

What about those who can’t afford or not eligible for BTO?

The above paragraphs seems to be referring only to Singaporeans who can afford or are eligible to buy new BTO flats. What about the hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans in HDB rental flats, Interim Housing Scheme HDB flats, homeless shelters, the homeless, renting a room or a HDB flat in the open market, etc?

HDB is great and compassionate?

In this connection, I would like to refer to the article “HDB has not lost heart: Khaw” (Straits Times, Aug 16).

According to the publication “Housing Matters” :

It says that, “HDB houses 80% of all Singaporeans. It is the largest housing developer in Singapore.And a compassionate one too.”

Using an example of a Singaporean man who passed away suddenly while at work, leaving behind his non-Singaporean wife and 4 young Singapore children. Their hopes of moving into the new Build-to-Order flat in Choa Chu Kang were dashed by the freak accident. As the widow is a foreigner, the family was at risk of (a) having to move out of their rental flat, and (b) losing their BTO flat which the deceased had worked hard to buy.

HDB officers worked out a comprehensive housing arrangement for the family, allowing them to keep the BTO flat application and lowered their monthly rental fee.

Our guiding principle is always "Compassion" and we will consider all practical options. Our hearts especially go out to victims of circumstances.

Another example was a case where the flat owner and his wife had to stop work due to serious medical conditions which led to their defaulting on mortgage payments. HDB waived the minimum occupation period (MOP) and allowed the couple to sell off their flat and move in with their children which eased their financial burden and enabled them to focus on their medical treatment.

Minister for National Development, Khaw Boon Wan spoke of  an unfortunate case from his meet-the-people session.  A couple passed away suddenly and left their only child behind. The girl, in her teens was still schooling and financially incapable of keeping up with mortgage payments. HDB made a special exception to defer the mortgage payments until she starts to work, allowing the daughter to focus on school and not worry about the mortgage payments.

Stating the above cases as example, Mr Khaw says HDB will be as compassionate as it can to help victims of circumstances address their housing needs when tragedies strike.

Connection to article on Housing Matters

In this connection, I would like to ask how many of the 5,500 letters of appeal written by MPs of Ang Mo Kio GRC to the HDB in one year (2012), were successful? (“5,500 letters of appeal on HDB in 2012 in 1 GRC?“, Jan 17)

With 5,500 letters of appeal on HDB in one year in just one GRC, how many letters of appeal from Singaporeans were written for all the GRCs and SMCs? – About 99,000? (15 GRCs and 12 SMCs) and at what percentage were the appeals being successful?

In addition to these letters of appeal from MPs, I believe there may be tens of thousands of appeals to the HDB, either in writing or orally, which did not go through the MPs.

So, what percentage of the total number of appeals to the HDB were successful? Surely, disclosing the statistics will make Singaporeans even more proud of the HDB as “a  Compassionate Housing Developer”.

By the way, referring to the above example of the widow who was a foreigner. Does this example mean that even though a BTO flat has been purchased, it will normally be rescinded by the HDB if the Singaporean spouse dies, leaving behind a foreign spouse widow?

Also, does it mean that when the Singaporean spouse of a HDB rental flat dies, his foreign spouse will no longer be eligible to continue renting the HDB flat? If so, why do we have such policies? (“HDB: 18 appeals and still homeless“, Jun 11, 2011)

Through my volunteer work doing financial counseling for needy Singaporeans, I have come across thousands of cases over the last decade of volunteering.  Handling cases which Singaporeans who made repeated appeals to the HDB over their housing woes to no avail.

Referencing to Dr Ang Yong Guan’s facebook posting “Khaw quotes selectively an Economist article to run down users of FB”. As Dr Ang is a psychiatrist by speciality, perhaps selectivity may be a compulsive disorder.
Past articles on HDB issues.



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