04 March 2011

The Plight of Needy Families Seeking Affordable Accommodation

2,200 old HDB apartments slated for demolition under SERS are being used as rental apartments for up to three years while redevelopment plans are being finalised.

Some apartments are leased to private operators, which are responsible for refurbishing, maintaining and managing the apartments.  They pay HDB (Housing and Development Board) $700 a month on average for each apartment.  They can decide how much to charge their tenants, who must be Singapore citizens, permanent residents, students or those with employment or S Pass permits.

1,400 apartments are offered at market rental rates.  A 3-room (i.e., consisting of two bedrooms and a hall-cum-dining room) apartment may be rented for $1,500 a month.

The remaining 800 apartments are offered as interim rental housing for needy families.  A bedroom in an interim rental housing apartment may be rented for $300 a month, compared to market rent of $500 to $600.

HDB said that the apartments are not suitable for use as public rental apartments for needy families, because they are slated for demolition.  Chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, Member of Parliament Cedric Foo was concerned that such families might get entrenched in the area or might get used to living in the apartments and HDB might find it difficult to relocate them when the apartments were ready for redevelopment.

Mr Foo said that a more effective solution was to look at the root of their financial difficulties and help them find jobs and give them subsidies and grants to help them with the cost of living.

That is a good short- to medium-term solution.  But needy families that are desperate for an affordable roof over their heads can hardly look beyond today's challenges.  The solution to the accommodation problem that they face today is obvious — allow them to occupy these old apartments at subsidised rents until the apartments are ready to be redeveloped.

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Notes.

1.  "To be Demolished Soon... For Rent in the Meantime" The Straits Times (2 Mar 2011).

2.   HDB is Housing and Development Board, Singapore's public housing authority and a statutory board under Ministry of National Development.

3.  SERS is HDB's Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme under which clusters of old HDB apartment blocks are repurchased from their owners, demolished and redeveloped.

4.  An employment pass may be issued to a foreigner to work in Singapore in a professional, managerial, executive or specialist job.  An S Pass may be issued to a foreigner to work in Singapore; criteria may include a fixed monthly salary of at least $1,800; a degree or a diploma.

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