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HDB rental flat for couple who lived in lorry for two years

After living in a lorry for almost two years, Mr Ong Poh Hwa, 44, and his pregnant wife, Ms Nguyen Thi Phu Vinh, 34, have finally achieved their dream of giving their future child a roof over his head. Last Thursday, they moved from the lorry to a two-room HDB flat in Bedok North under the Housing Board's Interim Rental Housing Scheme.

Their previous home, the lorry, is used by Mr Ong for his job as a deliveryman six days a week. He used to park it at Changi Beach Park at night, where the couple would then sleep on sheets of cardboard on the back of the lorry. Ms Nguyen cooked their meals using a portable stove and the couple used public toilets to wash up and do laundry.

The couple met in Vietnam where Mr Ong worked from 2009 to 2013 for a rice exporter. Ms Nguyen has lived in Singapore for about a year after moving here last April. She applied for a long-term visit pass last November and plans to apply for permanent residency after giving birth.

After Lianhe Wanbao shared the couple’s story last month, they have been visited by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in their lorry. The MSF referred them to a family service centre.

The couple was not eligible for a public rental HDB flat or a new subsidised flat due to Ms Nguyen being in Singapore only on a social visit pass.

The HDB hence made an exception for their case, allowing the couple to rent a flat for one year under the condition that they would buy a Build-To-Order flat later on. The birth of their child, due in August, would make them eligible to purchase the flat.

The couple currently pays $400 a month for the rental of their two-room flat, excluding utilities. "The size of the flat does not matter. It's better than living outside,” said Mr Ong. After his son is born, he hopes to acquire a three-room flat for his son to have his own room.

During the Budget debate earlier this month, Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said in Parliament that the HDB has in place various schemes to provide financial aid for families in need.

These include the allowing of mortgage payments to be shared by working adult children for their parents’ flat, the option to right-size a flat of a smaller or more suitable one, and the option to rent a public flat instead of buying.