Netizens raise questions over HDB’s policy of forcing strangers to live together following tragic incident at rental flat

Netizens raise questions over HDB’s policy of forcing strangers to live together following tragic incident at rental flat

Last Friday (17 Mar), a 59-year-old suspect was arrested for allegedly murdering his male co-tenant in a flat at Block 90, Redhill Close.

According to Lianhe Zaobao, the Police discovered a 61-year-old man lying on the floor inside the unit upon arrival at the scene, with multiple wounds and had already lost consciousness. Police said the victim was later pronounced dead by medical personnel.

The suspect, Ng Boon Hong was charged with murder under Section 302(1) of the Penal Code and was remanded for psychiatric examination at Changi Prison Complex’s medical center.

He will appear in court again on 6 April. If convicted, Ng could face the death penalty.

On Monday (13 Mar), 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.

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.

This Joint Singles Scheme Operator Run (JSS-OR) comes in response to cases where tenants have difficulty living together, despite the current Singles Public Rental scheme being tweaked over the years.

However, the current Joint Singles Scheme (JSS) model has been repeatedly cited as a serious problem for tenants causing homelessness, which requires applicants to pair up, creating barriers to access and opportunities for conflict among tenants that led to exit from rental housing.

While an individual can apply for a rental flat with a friend or relative, the individual might not be in good terms with their relative or their friend or relative already have their own lodging or living with their own family. This would then force the individual to opt to stay with a stranger in order to qualify for a rental flat.

‘Why force strangers to live together?

In light of a recent tragedy among co-tenants of a rental flat, netizens are questioning the practicality of HDB’s policy of having strangers share units and its latest Single Room Shared Facilities model, which requires single co-tenants to share bathroom and kitchen facilities.

Many netizens are asking why HDB is forcing strangers to live together, and why tenants cannot have their own separate units.

One netizen, commenting on CNA’s news post, expressed concern about rental flats shared by strangers, citing previous incidents of fights leading to severe injuries.

Others highlighted the challenges of sharing a small living space with someone you don’t know well, including conflicts over cleanliness, noise, and personal habits.

“Did the relevant authority done any social impact studies and feel the ground when introducing such schemes?” the netizen reminded that elderly were not like kids or army boys who could easily adapt to new living arrangements.

Another netizen shared her disappointment regarding the incident, pointing out that the implementation of two tenants sharing a room could result in them tolerating each other for a long time.

A netizen urged HDB and MND to reconsider the shared living arrangement policy.

“Singles also need some peace and privacy. Why force people to co-share with strangers?”

‘HDB should consider 1-room retirement village concept instead’

A netizen commenting on Today‘s Facebook post, suggested that HDB should consider a 1-room retirement village concept rather than a hostel-like living arrangement.

“When one has been staying alone for a long time, it is very difficult for them to start staying with another stranger in proximity. There are bound to be conflicts and disagreements even when staying with family members, let alone with a stranger. ”

A netizen called out the HDB to review the current rental model:


Previous cases of co-tenant violence in rental flats

The recent tragedy in a rental flat is not the first case of such violence.

In June 2016, a 70-year-old man, Tan Kim Hock was arrested for fatally slashing his 62-year-old flatmate with a kitchen knife. He was sentenced to four years’ jail at the High court in March 2018.

The pair had an uneasy relationship since they became co-tenants of a single-bedroom flat in 2012. Tan, who had been living alone, was required by HDB regulations to take in a co-tenant, and he agreed to share the flat with Fan Fook Heng, a welder.

Their relationship was marked by frequent quarrels, and on the night of 27 June 2016, their argument over the noise from washing a coffee cup escalated into a physical fight.

Tan attacked Fan with a kitchen knife, inflicting multiple wounds that resulted in Fan’s death two days later. Tan was arrested and charged with murder.

In another case happened in August 2017, Mohammad Roslan Zaini, a 35-year-old man, was found dead on the pavement near the void deck of Block 165A, Teck Whye Crescent.

He was stabbed in the chest by his 48-year-old flatmate.

These incidents can be described as the extreme outcome of disputes observed in the 2022 study conducted by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on homelessness in Singapore.

Several participants who have been long-term homeless 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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