HDB to prioritise the more deserving ahead of rental flat queue

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) will complete its review of the Public Rental Scheme as early as year end, says National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

The HDB will tighten eligibility criteria for rental flats and help moderate demand. But from now, applicants with more urgent needs will be able to bypass the long queue to get their flats.

The HDB is also increasing the number of rental flats from about 43,000 to nearly 50,000 units by 2011.

Speaking to reporters at a Citizenship Ceremony at Tampines on Saturday, Mr Mah said the highly subsidised rental flats will be given to those with the most pressing needs first.

As of June this year, over 4,300 people are on the waiting list for a rental flat. It can take about at least nine months (for a 2-room flat) to 18 months (for 1-room) before they get one.

In reviewing the Public Rental Scheme, Mr Mah said the Housing Board may re-look the 30-month debarment rule, which prevents property owners from applying for a rental flat after selling their home.

Mr Mah said: “The 30-month seems to give the impression that if you wait 30 months, you are sure to get a flat. I think we have to re-examine the 30-month debarment. In fact, we may have to remove the 30-month debarment and just go for eligibility criteria. So if you are truly eligible, you don’t have to wait 30 months.”

Also under study is the rule that requires first-time home owners, who have bought a flat directly from the Housing Board, to return a portion of the proceeds to their CPF account when they sell the unit.

Right now, the lease for rental flats is renewable every two years. But, Mr Mah said, it is hoped that existing tenants will be able to move out when their financial situation improves. For instance, they could buy a smaller flat or move in with their children, freeing up these units for people who need them more.

Denise Phua, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, has a suggestion on the eligibility criteria for rental flats.

“Instead of looking at total family income, it might be good to look at per capita income, or income per household member……people who need a rental flat but who may not be the poorest of the poorest, but could still rent HDB flats, but perhaps at a higher rate,” she said.

About 60 per cent of 12,000 applications for rental flats filed last year did not meet eligibility criteria. Only 4,671 applicants managed to get a rental unit.

Ms Denise Phua is helping Mr Lee Koon Chua with his rental flat appeal. The 73-year-old, who has been unable to work since a stroke, had sold his 3-room flat earlier this year. But part of the proceeds went to settling his debts and medical expenses. What’s left is not enough to buy another property.

Speaking in Hokkien, Mr Lee said: “I could sleep in the streets, but what about my wife. She needs to work, she earns $600-$700 a month. If she stops working, what do we eat?”

He claims that his eight children have abandoned him.

So, Mr Lee and his 64-year-old wife rented a HDB rental flat sublet out illegally by another elderly tenant.

The couple are paying $400 rental a month. This is much higher than HDB rates.

HDB is charging $30 a month, a rate which has been unchanged in the last 30 years. For larger units, it is $330, a rate pegged to the market rate.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 23 Aug 2008

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