Observers hope Budget 2016 will address issues with Fresh Start Housing Scheme

Observers have said there are still some outstanding issues with the Fresh Start Housing Scheme that they hope can be addressed in the upcoming Budget, which is set to be delivered at 3.30pm on Thursday (Mar 24).

The scheme aims to help public rental tenants, especially those who previously owned flats and have young children, to own their own flat.

The Housing and Development Board and National Development Ministry have held public consultations to gather feedback on implementing the scheme. Some suggestions include more grants, concessionary loans and even shorter leases.

Experts said that a key consideration for the scheme will be refining the qualifying criteria.

“Past studies show that people who are homeowner-occupiers are more responsible citizens – it imbues a kind of responsible behaviour,” said one of them, DTZ’s head of research Lee Nai Jia. “Their children are also able to do better in school because of the stable environment.”

Dr Lee added: “I think this is a great scheme. The key problem is how we are going to identify this group and their income ceiling, and (how we are going to define) the type of benefits to give this group.”

Others said that given the financial situation such families find themselves in, it is likely that any form of Government support will have to take into account such issues.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat, member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, said the scheme gives a “second chance to families”, especially those who faced circumstances they could not control, leading them to have to sell their first flat and find temporary public rental.

“(The scheme) allows them to own a house eventually,” said Mr Saktiandi. “There could be more support for them in terms of grants and there could also be some conditions for the grants to be disbursed.

“(For example), the families (can first) show that they are able to pay for the new flats they are about to acquire.”

Besides built-in conditions, social welfare organisation Fei Yue Family Service Centre said it is important to educate the families on the responsibilities of home ownership. It suggests running a set of programmes parallel to the disbursement of grants, such as financial management and activities to keep children in school.

“We don’t want to come to a point where they are on the scheme and then there is a setback and they are penalised or thrown out of the scheme,” said Ms Lilian Ong, principal social worker at the centre. “We could introduce some sort of readiness or transitional programme to prepare the whole family for this.”

The centre recommends that such a transitional programme for these households run for half a year.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 22 Mar 2016

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