AWARE calls for careful matching of tenants in HDB’s Single Room Shared Facility Scheme

AWARE calls for careful matching of tenants in HDB’s Single Room Shared Facility Scheme

SINGAPORE — The Single Room Shared Facility Scheme is a new pilot project launched by the Housing & Development Board (HDB) in Singapore, aimed at providing more options for low-income singles to obtain public rental flats.

Under this scheme, tenants will be offered the privacy of their own rooms while sharing facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens, and other common spaces.

However, women’s rights group AWARE has expressed concerns over the potential tensions that may arise between housemates due to the ratio of tenants to available facilities. With around four tenants sharing one shower cubicle or toilet, conflicts can be exacerbated by different lifestyles and habits.

In its statement on a Facebook post on 17 March 2023, AWARE suggested that tenants be carefully matched to minimize conflict for the duration of the pilot run.

The organization drew on its previous experience running the Support, Housing and Enablement (S.H.E.) Project for single-mother families between 2018 and 2021, where the residents were sensitively matched, taking into consideration factors such as their religious beliefs.

A house mother was also assigned to hold orientation sessions each time a new resident moved in, so that all residents could get to know one another and collectively decide on group norms. If conflicts arose between residents, the house mother helped to mediate.

Despite these interventions, AWARE observed that arguments still occurred between housemates, which sometimes led to residents moving out, especially during pandemic lockdowns.

In light of this, AWARE recommended that low-income individuals be housed in their own flats, as having a place of their own is crucial to a person’s well-being and sense of dignity.

AWARE also suggested that the government consider repurposing the pilot for vulnerable single young women below 35 who face family violence and lack the means to rent on the open market. Communal settings can help foster mutual support amongst such residents and promote better well-being in an environment free of abuse. It will also allow them a safe space to gain stable footing in their lives.

Pilot scheme to start end of year

The new scheme will be sited at the former Anderson Junior College hostel in Ang Mo Kio, with the 480 single rooms expected to be available for applications by the end of the year when the two 11-storey blocks are ready.

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. Laundry and activity rooms will also be available.

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.

During a media tour of the project, Desmond Lee, the HDB’s Minister for National Development, said that the scheme provides both privacy and enables social interaction. He added 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, with current rent for one-room public rental flats ranging from S$26 to S$205, depending on one’s income level and other eligibility criteria.

Conflicts between strangers cause many to sleep out and be homeless

The Single Room Shared Facility Scheme is a response to cases where tenants have difficulty living together, despite the current Singles Public Rental scheme being tweaked over the years.

In the 2022 study conducted by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on homelessness in Singapore, irrationalities in policies, especially the Joint Singles Scheme (JSS) which requires applicants to pair up, created barriers to access and opportunities for conflict among tenants that led to exit from rental housing.

The JSS was repeatedly cited as a serious problem. This scheme requires single persons to pair up for the housing application and share a small studio flat with no bedrooms.

Several participants had managed to obtain public rental housing in the past, but had poor experiences. They described conflicts with their co-tenant, not feeling safe, sleeping outside and eventually moving out.

The study notes that requiring two persons who do not know each other to live together created many opportunities for friction.

There were co-tenants with poor personal hygiene or who brought female friends home to spend the night.

There were also disagreements over rent payments because these are collected on a household rather than an individual basis.

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