Consider social impact of amending housing laws

The parliamentary petition Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng is filing calls for amendments to the Housing and Development Act to rule out discrimination based on marital status (Single parents: MP to file housing petition; Sept 7).

While I agree that single parents need more support, I disagree with a broad stroke approach to equalise all rights, including housing rights, without considering the message it is sending, and the social impact it has.

The institution of marriage incorporates responsible parenting, which means creating the best environment to bring up children.

Research has shown that children raised by their own fathers and mothers do better in school and are less likely to have run-ins with the law.

If unwed parents have access to the same rights as married couples, the Government is sending a message that it is all right not to get married. This would downplay the importance of marriage.

Single parenthood is a complex issue and every case is unique. The HDB should have the right to assess each case so as not to make decisions that could harm children and society.

Mr Ng's proposal does not consider controversial cases, such as same-sex parenting, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) through overseas sperm donors and cohabiting couples with children.

The HDB's approach is in line with the Ministry of Social and Family Development's position of supporting parenthood within the context of heterosexual marriage.

Mr Ng referred to the Convention on the Rights of the Child "particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing".

The HDB is not depriving any single parent of shelter. There are different types of housing to cater to different income groups.

The Government cares for the single parent community. It has pledged more support, such as extending 16 weeks of maternity leave to unwed mothers.

In addition children from disadvantaged families are given more financial and social support. Schemes such as KidStart give these children education and healthcare support in their early years.

The Government should continue to assist single parent families, but without undermining the importance of parenthood within marriage.

Stanley Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'Consider social impact of amending housing laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe