HDB to review model for rental housing scheme

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) is reviewing the leasing model for the Interim Rental Housing scheme, which was launched in 2009 to help needy families find temporary accommodation while waiting for permanent housing solutions.

Currently, these families live in housing blocks spread across the island which are slated for redevelopment. These blocks are leased to operators – such as EM Services and LHN Group – to manage.

While the scheme provides units for rent “at below market rates”, the operators can decide how much to charge other tenants, who could be Singaporeans, permanent residents, students or those with employment or S-Pass permits.

About 1,400 of the 2,200 flats slated for redevelopment are offered at market rental rates, while 800 are set aside for interim rental housing.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the HDB said it “has drawn learning points from the current contracts” and more details will be made available once the review is complete. The HDB’s response comes amid calls by at least two Members of Parliament (MPs) for the authority to review the scheme in view of the shortage of such units.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan has received “many requests from residents” seeking rental flats. He has also asked the Minister for National Development to consider whether existing rental flats at Dakota Crescent could be used to help meet the shortfall in supply.

“This would mean taking back the flats from EM Services after their contract to manage these flats has expired,” Mr Lim wrote on his Facebook page recently. “It would also mean displacing some of the existing tenants (some foreigners and some Singaporeans). But the priority should always be to house Singaporeans.”

Meanwhile, Hougang MP Yaw Shin Leong noted that there are “many” residents seeking rental flats from the HDB and most had been waiting for at least two to three months. He has come across two Hougang constituents being charged S$1,600 and S$2,450 by EM Services for the rental of flats.

According to EM Services, the S$2,450 rental was charged to a tenant who has been in arrears since November last year.

“Upon expiration of the contract, double rent has been charged, according to the market practice,” an EM Services spokesperson said in response to TODAY’s queries.

For the three- and four-room flats leased to EM Services in Hougang, the HDB said it will review the uses of these flats following the expiry of the leasing contract in March next year.

Still, Mr Yaw felt it “is timely for the Government” to re-visit the issue of the HDB running EM Services – a joint venture between the HDB and Keppel Land Limited.

To this, the HDB clarified that the authority does not run a commercial arm with the aim of renting out HDB flats for profit. The HDB incorporated EM Services in 1988 to provide managing agency services to Town Councils, which “remains its core function today”.

The HDB explained it engaged EM Services in 2009 to run a pilot project to provide interim rental housing at below market rates to help needy families who are unable to afford open market rents.

Source : Today – 3 Aug 2011

Join The Discussion

Compare listings