Housing policy changes not enough for some PRs to take up citizenship

The government has sharpened the differentiation in housing benefits enjoyed by citizens and permanent residents (PRs), but some PRs have said it is still not enough for them to take up citizenship.

And as revealed in Parliament on Friday, households comprising one citizen and one PR will now have to pay more to buy an HDB flat.

A new quota for non-Malaysian PRs has also been implemented to prevent enclaves from forming in estates.

28-year-old Vina Mubtadi has been a PR for the last 1.5 years.

She recently married a Singaporean, and the couple hopes to buy a flat soon and start a family.

With rising housing prices already a concern, the latest changes in housing policy will make it even more expensive for them to own a home.

Still, Ms Vina said she is not quite ready to give up her Indonesian citizenship, despite the carrot being dangled by the Singapore government.

She said: “If I give up my nationality, that means I cannot have a property there in Indonesia. But if I stay a PR (in Singapore), although I have to pay a higher price to own a property here, but at least I can have a property here and I can also have a property in Indonesia.”

Previously, a household comprising one Singapore citizen and one PR would have enjoyed the same level of housing subsidies as a Singaporean couple.

With the changes, Singaporeans married to PRs will receive S$10,000 less in housing grants if they buy a resale flat. Alternatively, they will have to pay a S$10,000 premium if they buy a new HDB flat. However, the amount will be restored if the PR family member becomes a citizen, or if the couple has a child who is Singaporean.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan had also announced a new quota for non-Malaysian PRs in housing estates.

He noted that this would help to encourage integration.

Market watchers said this may affect Singaporean homeowners more than the PRs.

David Poh, senior group district director, PropNex, explained: “If a certain estate has reached its maximum PR quota, then Singaporeans can only choose to sell to Singaporeans. So they cannot be so choosy about it, because if a PR wants to buy their house, they cannot sell it to them. So they probably cannot ask for too high a price.

“Whereas if you are a PR living in an estate with a full PR quota, then you can choose to sell to both Singaporeans and PRs. In this case, you probably can ask for a slightly higher price.”

The quota is set at five per cent at the neighbourhood level, and eight per cent at the block level. This is in addition to the Ethnic Integration Policy already in place.

HDB said that 13 out of the 162 neighbourhoods islandwide are likely to be affected by the new quota for PRs.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 6 Mar 2010

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