Concerns raised over shared facilities and pandemic risks in HDB’s new rental model for low-income singles

Concerns raised over shared facilities and pandemic risks in HDB’s new rental model for low-income singles

On Monday(13 March), Minister for National Development Desmond Lee launched a new pilot rental model – the Single Room Shared Facilities model at the former Anderson Junior College hostel in Ang Mo Kio.

The Housing & Development Board (HDB) launched this model for low-income singles, aimed at providing them with more options for obtaining public rental flats.

In a Facebook post, Desmond Lee said each tenant is given his or her own space, which comes with furnishings such as a bed frame and wardrobe.

“Tenants will share amenities, such as kitchens, dining areas, toilets and showers. There will also be communal spaces where tenants are able to interact and take part in various activities.”

He also believed that HDB is able to provide individuals more privacy while making good use of the limited space with the model.

Operator-run model similar to the current JSS-OR

Similar to the current Joint Singles Scheme Operator Run (JSS-OR) model, an operator will be appointed to manage the site, including mediation if there are disputes and providing social service support if needed.

Desmond Lee told the media that the pilot will run for a year or two before the ministry decides whether to include this among its range of offerings in its rental housing schemes.

Authorities are still working out the rental rates for the rooms. Currently, rent for one-room public rental flats ranges from S$26 to S$205, depending on one’s income level and other eligibility criteria.

12 people to share a bathroom

HDB’s website states that most applicants have a household income below S$1,500, but those with higher incomes can still apply for an evaluation of their eligibility.

Each room measures around nine sq m and comes with basic furnishings, including a bed frame, wardrobe, table, chair, and a small refrigerator. Bathroom and kitchen facilities will be shared, with approximately 12 people to one toilet and 24 people to a communal kitchen.

The scheme comes in response to cases where tenants have difficulty living together, despite the current Singles Public Rental scheme being tweaked over the years.

Possible pandemics, practicality of sharing bathrooms among concerns raised by netizens

However, some netizens have expressed concerns about the practicality of sharing bathroom and kitchen facilities.

Additionally, some have questioned why HDB does not simply allow tenants to rent a whole unit on their own.

When commenting on CNA‘s Facebook post, one netizen mentioned the lack of convenience with shared facilities, citing stories of disagreements between roommates in current rental schemes.

“I’ve heard of stories where two strangers staying together have altercations because of disagreements and other reasons. This arrangement allows them to have personal space but lacks the convenience of your own kitchen and toilet.”

She suggested that HDB should simply allow anyone, whether single, couple, or friends who get along well, to rent a unit together for a reasonable and affordable price.

Disputes are likely to arise without proper cleaning and maintenance

Commenting on the idea of 12 people sharing a toilet, a netizen believed that without proper cleaning and maintenance, disputes are likely to arise, as people have different standards of cleanliness.

“Even family members also can like that, imagine strangers living together. ”

She suggested an idea similar to a one-room flat, provided with a sleeping area, a kitchenette, a toilet, and essential appliances like a washing machine and fridge, and tenants would be responsible for keeping their living space clean.

‘Put in more singles when two singles are already a problem’

Some also mentioned the current Singles Public Rental scheme, which has been adjusted over the years, as there have been cases where rental flat tenants have difficulty living together.

“When two singles are already a problem, you put in more singles”

Netizen proposes a studio unit

A netizen who had experience in managing boarding houses, said while the new pilot model is a good idea, community living requires a lot of supervision.

“There needs to be a set of rules, and there is a need to enforce them. Enforcing is the tough part. Security is an issue. Then you need CCTV and maintenance just like any HDB flats.”

He proposed that a studio unit with a pantry and small bathroom would be a better option.

‘Did government forgot about pandemics?’

A netizen expressed concern about the potential risks of a pandemic, questioning how tenants would be able to quarantine if they need to share facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens.

In 2020, COVID-19 infections spread rapidly in migrant workers’ dormitories, and the Singaporean government faced heavy criticism for failing to address overcrowding issues in these densely packed dormitories.

Ministry of Manpower said the vast majority of the COVID-19 cases in Singapore occurred in migrant worker dormitories, where the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread quickly due to their communal living arrangements.

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