By Leong Sze Hian and financial counselling volunteers
When Gladys (not her real name) got married about 8 years ago – it was the happiest day of her life. However, things began to take a turn for the worse, when her husband went to prison practically every year.
She eventually filed for a divorce in 2010, which was granted by the court on 19 April 2013. She was awarded 70% of the proceeds from the HDB flat which had to be sold.
Over the last year or so, after more than 10 meetings with HDB, her MP’s meet-the-people’s session (MPS), emails, etc – the HDB has approved her Housing Loan Eligiblity (HLE) which means that she has an adequate housing loan to buy her second Build to Order (BTO) flat.
She has since sold her flat and has to move out at the end of June. She and her 7 year old daughter are now extremely stressed as she has been told that there may not be a sale of balance flat available by the time that she has to vacate her current HDB flat. She has already conveyed her willingness to take any type of flat to the HDB but the agency is not willing to commit that a flat will be available soon for her and her daughter.
Despite knowing that her take-home pay is $2,400 and she only has $20 in her bank now due to her being unemployed for a few months, Gladys is not being offered HDB rental flat, lower IHS rental or homeless shelter alternative.
Instead HDB offered her a rental flat under the Interim Housing Scheme (IHS) at $1,700 to $1,900 monthly rental. But this option is financially beyond her means.
She has tried a few times to explore the possibility of renting a room in the open market for about $650. However, various issues deter her from doing that.
All the landlords rejected her after she explained her situation, being a single divorced mother with a young daughter. A friend whom has very kind to her, has been taking her daughter to and from school everyday as Gladys has to work rather long hours. – Apart from her family situation, the minimum rental is for 1 year, and she only has $20 in her bank account now. She also believes her race may have something to do with it too.
When we asked her why did she sell her flat when she did not have any confirmed alternative accommodation, she replied that the HDB told her that she could only apply for a BTO flat or BTO sale of balanced flat after she had sold her current flat.
She pointed out the following to us:-
On 5 February 2014, the HDB wrote to her –
“We understand that you will meet the MOP for the existing flat only on 1 April 2014.
Hence, if you wish to buy a flat from the HDB and are able to meet all other prevailing eligibility conditions, you may apply for one through our regular BTO exercises, in the non-mature estates from 1 April 2014 onward.”
We believe this may have been a mis-communication, as our understanding is that one can apply for a second BTO whilst staying in an existing one, as long as the 5 year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) has been met, notwithstanding that there is a court order for the flat to be sold because of the divorce.
Her 7 year old daughter has been asking her where they will be staying after the end of June?
Gladys wrote in an email to us – “Anyway other than that I pray I am coping well and I do it cos I have a little girl who needs me to be strong for her.”
Gladys first wrote in to confide with TOC on her problems in end April and was subsequently referred to Mr Leong Sze Hian for financial consultation. When TOC called to check on her on various occasions, she was practically crying every time we called.
TOC has since contacted HDB on the issue and has been informed that HDB will be getting in touch with Gladys. However, at the time of publication, HDB has not offered Gladys any new solutions apart from what has been offered before and she will still be homeless along with her 7 year old daughter after she evicts her flat in the coming June.
Image – HDB main branch at Toa Payoh / Terry Xu