Elderly Singaporeans share struggles in securing decent and affordable living spaces

Elderly Singaporeans share struggles in securing decent and affordable living spaces

On 13 March, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee launched a new pilot rental model – the Single Room Shared Facilities model for low-income singles, aimed at providing them with more options for obtaining public rental flats.

The Single Room Shared Facility Scheme will enable tenants to have their own room while sharing facilities such as the bathroom, kitchen, and other common spaces.

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.

A recent tragedy where a man allegedly murdered his co-tenant had netizens question the practicality of HDB’s policy of having strangers share units.

Singapore media outlet TODAY recently interviewed a few elderlies to shed light on the difficulties faced in securing a roof above their head and the challenges of living with other strangers.

JSS-OR tenant expressed her wish to have her own private accommodation

For example, a 76-year-old telemarketer, Doreen Chan’s fraught ties with her family led her to apply for the scheme.

“My son kept chasing me out of the house. My family problems were really bad … (it was classified as) a ‘critical family case’,”

She moved into her JSS-OR unit at Bukit Batok West in September last year.

“So my social worker fought hard for me to get a place under this scheme, even though my income exceeds the cap for rental flats for lower-income singles,” she said in an interview with TODAY.

“Even over here, there are fights, and the police came,” she said.

While acknowledging that JSS-OR scheme might be able to help those people who are in dire situation, she also expressed that she would prefer to have her own private accommodation as “everybody is eyeing on that”.

Minor disagreements and conflicts are “part and parcel of living with strangers”

Most of the tenants acknowledged that minor disagreements and conflicts are “part and parcel of living with strangers”, but some have had it worse than others.

50-year-old Mr Kalimuthu had a sour relationship with his ex-flatmate, who would often get drunk and rowdy late at night. This caused tensions between them, which came to a head when the flatmate threatened to harm him.

“He had gangster connections and when he was drunk, he threatened to gang up against me and beat me up. I was so scared but I didn’t want to fight him,” fearing for his safety, Mr Kalimuthu called the social service operator, who helped him file a police report and eventually move out to a different flat.

Apart from personal lifestyle differences, religious or cultural practices could also cause conflicts with co-tenants. As a religious person, Mr Kalimuthu shared that some people might not appreciate his prayers early in the morning.

Early morning when I wake up, I perform my mandras, sanding the gardening, they don’t like me, because religion is different.

Went homeless after not being able to afford rental

Mr Kalimuthu lost his job as a software engineer during the pandemic and could no longer afford his S$200 rental flat.

After becoming homeless, he slept outside the Fullerton Bay Hotel the first night, the second night outside the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the third near the casino at Marina Bay.

On the third night of sleeping rough, Mr Kalimuthu was approached by four policemen who woke him up to inquire about his housing situation. They then assisted him in locating affordable housing options.

Difficulties of co-living with strangers, require high tolerance

It is worth noting that the latest HDB initiative, JSS-OR scheme, was introduced in response to cases where tenants face challenges living together.

Several netizens commented on TODAY‘s Facebook post, supporting the elderly interviewed and acknowledging the difficulties of co-living with strangers.

Some comments pointed out that living with a stranger is too challenging, with numerous conflicts and endurance needed, and it’s better to live alone without dealing with the attitudes and behaviours of someone you don’t know.

A netizen also pointed out that the current scheme wastes money and resources, further causing stress and depression among residents.

She suggested that the money could be better spent on building a safer and more conducive environment for healing and moving forward.

Privacy as basic human necessity

Some netizens suggested that basic human necessities include privacy and space, and proposed that the government should build one-room per unit only, although this may require a new design and rebuilding of the flats.

Netizen shared story of how his brother was assaulted by co-tenant

A netizen shared a personal experience of his brother, who lived in a rental flat with a stranger. Unfortunately, the co-tenant had mental health problems and physically assaulted his brother, causing him to be hospitalized.

“HDB keep asking my brother to find someone to stay with him.if not he have to move out..he was so stress …one day he was diagnosed cancer and he pass away …”

The netizen hopes that HDB will not force tenants to find co-tenants but instead work to solve their problems.

Netizens suggesting other solutions

Some netizens suggested alternative solutions to HDB.

One comment advocated for studio apartments allowing single elderly people to have their own space without feeling too lonely or having too much space to clean up.

Another netizen recommended old folks homes, which could accommodate more people and provide 24-hour medical care for a reasonable fee. These homes could also have flexible house rules that could be tailored to each individual’s needs.

In the 2022 study conducted by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on homelessness in Singapore, participants shared having poor experiences after managing to obtain public rental housing.

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.

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments