Govt to tweak Interim Rental Housing scheme

The government has tweaked the Interim Rental Housing (IRH) scheme to better help needy families with temporary housing at subsidised rates, while they work out a more permanent solution.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said it will exercise greater oversight of the scheme to ensure that the private operators managing the scheme serve Singaporean families first.

He said in his blog on Friday that his ministry and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) will improve the scheme in a few ways.

First, the HDB will limit the role of the private operators.

They will manage the IRH tenancies and premises on HDB’s behalf.

Second, the HDB will introduce more guidelines to ensure better pairing of households to help minimise possible conflicts.

Under IRH, two households will share a flat, as this lowers their individual rental cost.

Third, the HDB will extend the IRH tenancy period from the current six months to a year.

This can be renewed for up to two years.

Mr Khaw said this will reduce the anxiety that families feel and give greater certainty to tenants who may need more time to work out a longer-term housing option.

Those waiting for their new flat or public rental flat can continue to renew until their flat is ready for occupancy.

The first site that will operate under the revised IRH terms is at Dover Road, with about 500 flats for IRH tenants.

As for existing IRH sites, the HDB will honour the existing contracts and take them back when the lease expires.

Mr Khaw said the IRH scheme is a minor supplement to the public rental housing scheme, which is run by the HDB.

While 1,500 households are under the IRH scheme, 45,000 families are living in the HDB rental flats.

The HDB will work with Community Development Councils (CDCs), voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and family service centres (FSCs) to help them find long-term sustainable solutions.

Mr Khaw said: “I hope that these changes will provide a more stable living environment for needy Singapore families in transition. But we should be mindful of the many social problems faced by these families. Resolving them will require many helping hands, from CDC, FSCs, self-help groups to the local social service agencies. Let’s try to give them a leg up, especially the children.

The HDB introduced the IRH scheme in 2009 as an interim housing measure for those who need temporary shelter but are able to work towards a longer-term housing solution.

The scheme is for families which fall into hardship and have an urgent housing need.

These families are encouraged to live with their parents or siblings temporarily while building up their finances, or rent a flat or a room in the open market.

When these options are not available, the HDB refers them to the IRH operators to temporarily rent accommodation offered at below-market rate.

Those eligible for IRH include households currently in the queue for public rental flats but need urgent accommodation, households in financial hardship and are right-sizing to smaller flats which are currently under construction, as well as households which need some time to work out their finances before they are able to afford open market rentals or purchase smaller flats.

As at end November 2011, the HDB has helped 2,600 households with IRH accommodation.

Currently, there are about 1,500 households living in five IRH sites at Havelock Road, Toa Payoh, Bedok, Woodlands and Yung Kuang Road.

The scheme is run by private operators.

Under a cross-subsidy IRH model, the operators lease the flats from the HDB.

They let out a portion of the flats to IRH tenants at rentals below the market rate, and let out the remaining flats at open market rentals to other Singaporeans and foreigners working and studying in Singapore.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 30 Dec 2011

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