Given that the majority of Singaporeans live in Housing Development Board (HDB) flats, consideration needs to be given to how the often rigid rules applied by the HDB need to be updated to suit the changing needs of the country.

The HDB was formed in 1960 to address the housing needs of a Singapore that had just gained self-governance from the British colonial rulers. In those days, several generations of families would live together and no one would bat an eyelid to that kind of set up. Traditional marriages also did not take on the legalistic nature of our current civil marriages. Often, men would have more than one wife and they would all live under one household. Issues of child custody and other ancillary matters would be dealt with between the parties and other family members with little or no governmental intervention.

Fast forward 50 years and this is no longer the case and HDB rules are such that for a couple to qualify for a flat, they would have to get married. This has no doubt led to some young people hastening their marriage plans just so as to be able to move out together and get their own place. Are these young people necessarily all ready for marriage?

Whether we like it or not, divorce statistics are on the rise and I have no doubt that the inflexible HDB rules have a part to play. Due to pressures of getting a flat, we have young people rushing to get married just so that they can have an independent life despite not being emotionally or mentally ready for marriage. To get a flat in your own right without the need to get married, you would have to be 35 years old. Should this minimum age be reduced in line with our changing living trends?

Another example of when the HDB rules appear to have caused more harm than good is in instances of divorces where both parents get shared and control of the children. In such cases, the invariable conundrum of who gets the right to list the children as “essential occupiers” arises as both parents who now live separately need to fulfill the “eligible family unit” requirement required by the HDB. Surely the HDB rules ought to make sure that its rules are refreshed to suit 21st century needs?

This is all the more urgent given that there is a move for more divorced parents to have shared care and control of the children which would mean that there would be more people stuck in this bind.

The HDB rules are the reason why parents are caught in this artificial scenario of needing to list “essential occupiers” in the first place. It is therefore imperative that they sort it out.Housing is after all the most crucial thing for an independent adult after food and water.

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