HDB urged to be more compassionate in arrears cases

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) came under the spotlight in Parliament on Tuesday with MP Ong Kian Min urging it to exercise compassion in cases of mortgage arrears.

The MP for Tampines GRC said that while the lower income group in other countries could move to cheaper housing, Singaporeans do not have that option as HDB flats are already the cheapest form of housing.

He recounted how nine families in his constituency approached him for help on Monday night, having received compulsory acquisition notices from HDB due to mortgage arrears.

Among them was 53-year-old Judy Mitchell, a single parent with a working daughter and an aged mother.

“When I lost my job, I had a hard time finding a job. A lot of it was due to age. If I did get a job, it was not adequate to survive, but I would just take it on, so that at least I could get the momentum moving,” said Judy.

She is behind in her mortgage payments for almost six months now, and her arrears come up to almost S$11,000.

She had offered to repay the HDB some S$800 a month, but she said the housing board insisted on a repayment scheme of S$2,000 a month.

Judy said: “I would like HDB to look at my actual situation. I am the sole breadwinner in this family, and looking at what my total salary package is, (I hope) they could compromise on an amount I know I am able to pay monthly without a default, and also able to at least go to work, pay for my water and lights. This is my home. I really want to save my home.”

Mr Ong has written two appeals to the HDB on her behalf, but these have been rejected.

For now, Judy and her family are waiting a valuation of their five-room flat before deciding on their next step.

Mr Ong said even if Judy decides to sell her current flat, she would still be unable to purchase a smaller flat, and is unlikely to get a loan from HDB or a commercial bank due to her age.

“I cannot imagine in Singapore, where we pride ourselves in our home ownership policy that a family of two working adults supporting one elderly family member would have their HDB flat repossessed and be left homeless. What is our social compact? There are those among us like Mdm Judy Mitchell who are trying their best, working hard, wanting to be self-reliant. I believe the government should step in and give them a helping hand,” Mr Ong said.

The need for a more supportive housing board was also brought up by Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, an MP for Aljunied GRC.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Yeo touched on the problems faced by Singaporeans who have problems selling off a bigger flat to downgrade to a smaller unit.

Saying that HDB should help Singaporeans downgrade, Mr Yeo reminded the housing board that its mission is to help Singaporeans own their homes.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 26 Feb 2008

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