Third bite of the HDB cherry, for those caught in the middle?

The waiting time for rental flats has been shortened from 21 to eight months. But for households which fall through the cracks, could more be done to help them own a flat, asked Members of Parliament yesterday.

Such households include those too poor to buy an HDB flat but who earn too much to qualify for rental housing, or those who sold off their flats and no longer qualify for subsidised loans.

Madam Ho Geok Choo (West Coast GRC) and Dr Ahmad Magad (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) called on the Government to offer this group of households a “third bite of the cherry” – subsidised loans tied to a longer minimum occupation period (MOP) of 10 years before they can sell their flats.

Mdm Ho proposed that the HDB shorten the debarment period on rental housing for these households, while Dr Ahmad said these households could sell their “third flat” back to the HDB at the “original purchase price”, or at the “price determined by HDB” if they were to sell their flat within the MOP.

In his response, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said: “Families must also exercise personal responsibility when they decide to sell their flat.”

For those who are ineligible for rental flats, the HDB can refer them to interim rental housing, he added.

Mr Cedric Foo (West Coast GRC) proposed that a higher Special Housing CPF Grant (SHG) be given to those households who are prepared to fulfil a longer MOP.

Mr Mah said the Government will take it into consideration when it reviews the SHG. The SHG is a new initiative to help low-income families buy their first flat. This grant will range from S$5,000 to S$20,000 for families with household incomes up to S$2,250.

However, Mr Mah said: “Housing grants alone are not a panacea for all problems faced by low-income families.”

Source : Today – 4 Mar 2011