Single mother shares her story of being turned down her application for rental flat as she tries to make ends meet for her family

Last Wednesday (12 February), a young single mother, Chanel Koh shared on her Facebook page about her application of renting a Housing & Development Board (HDB) flat has constantly being turned town and neglected by the government.

In her lengthy Facebook post, Ms Koh wrote the predicament that she faced since she was young and how was the application of renting a HDB flat withhold.

Ms Koh did not stay together with her parents since she was young as her father had passed away and her mother was imprisoned.

She has written to government for seeking help in applying for a HDB flat rental, between 2015-2016, however, it seems like no one rendered assistance and her application gone without a trace.

“But still over the 1 year plus, no help rendered and I was still constantly renting a room by myself. So you mean that I’m not considered no family support and other housing options?” she wrote.

After Ms Koh got married in 2016, she claimed that she has suffered violence and infidelity of her husband so she decided to bring her two kids moving out from his husband’s house in 2019.

To seek for a roof over her two kids, Ms Koh’s appealing for a rental flat was once again turned away with the reason of “as HDB rules are rules” and the government cannot help with it.

Speaking on this, she wrote, “I am just a normal citizen, a mother, someone’s daughter and all I wanted was to apply for a 2 room rental flat to tide me over from now till my divorce is finalized so I can then apply for a house with my kids after the final judgement.”

Following this, Ms Koh and her children was arranged by Fei Yue Family Service Centre to a home in Serangoon after she was ousted from her rented place on 11 Feb this year.

However, she is troubled by the arrangement as she does not have sufficient time for traveling back-and-forth between her children’s school in Tradehub21 and her working place in Henderson.

Notwithstanding the difficulties that Ms Koh faced, the social worker told Ms Koh that Serangoon would be the place for her to stay until she is successful on the appealing for renting a HDB flat.

As wrote in Ms Koh post, the social worker said, “If you move into the Serangoon one, then that’ll be where you’ll be staying for until HDB gets back again or you rent from the open market. But I think we should work towards the open market cause the chances are slim as you are earning $2000 and the max cap for HDB is $1500. And you’re not officially divorced yet,”

Under the income guideline of HDB, the applicant’s household gross income should not exceed $1,500 per month, yet HDB will still review the applications for monthly household income which over $1,500.

Ms Koh then pointed out that her incomes after deducted by CPF will not enough to cover their household living if she was to rent a flat on the open market.

In her post, she also expressed her disappointment when the government leaders did not render assistance during her tough times and this caused her a painful situation now.

She wrote in her post, “Now you know why there’s so many women who suffered a bad marriage but live with it till they die? Not because they are weak, but because they are weary and unsure. The government bodies portray a colourful rainbow, promises a bed of roses only to turn down a single mother with 2 kids pushing them to stay in homes instead of just renting her a 2 room flat”.

Ms Koh also shared the screenshot of email that she wrote to the government including the former Minister for National Development, Khaw Boon Wan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Teo Ho Pin as well as the HDB officer.


Does government provide housing assistance for single parenthoods?

According to HDB, the housing measures such as policies for smoother housing transition, access to housing subsidies, accommodation in the interim and public rental housing were implemented to help single parents with their housing needs based on their situation.

“We also recognise that each family has different needs and circumstances, and therefore we do exercise flexibility on a case-by-case basis, to help households with their specific housing needs,” said HDB.

The issue of housing for single parenthoods also has been raised during the parliamentary session last year where the Secretary to the Minister for National Development, Sun Xueling responded questions regarding the HDB housing policies for single parenthoods.

Responding on the flexibility of application, Ms Sun said that HDB will review every application for public rental individually based on the family’s housing budget and their circumstances.

Furthermore, Ms Sun noted that HDB will not only rely on the guidelines to understand the applicant’s circumstances, and also “from HDB’s perspective and experience”.

“So, HDB does not apply a one-size-fits all policy,” Ms Sun added.

It also noted that HDB will not “outright” turn away any applicants who seek for housing assistance before HDB engaging the parents to understand more about their financial and family situation.

HDB also proposed several new measures to improve their existing policies such as a comprehensive review of the various touch-points which single parenthoods may encounter in their housing journey.

The review will include the e-applications system, HDB websites and their branches, such as explicitly stating in website that applicants may approach HDB for flat buying or rental, and how to submit application requests to HDB as well as common housing queries from single unwed parents.

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