Fresh Start scheme will be made flexible

Madam Jamnah Hamzah, seen here with her son Adrian Mazuan, is keen to apply for the Fresh Start Housing Scheme to give her family a better future.
Madam Jamnah Hamzah, seen here with her son Adrian Mazuan, is keen to apply for the Fresh Start Housing Scheme to give her family a better future.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

To help poor families own a flat again, certain conditions may be waived in some cases

The Government will waive some conditions on a case-by-case basis when implementing the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, a programme that helps struggling families own a flat again.

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman revealed this to reporters yesterday, on the sidelines of a career fair in Bedok.

Dr Maliki chairs the advisory panel which will support outreach efforts and guide how best to put the scheme into practice. He was in the Ministry of National Development when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned the scheme at last year's National Day Rally.

The scheme is for families who once owned a flat but now live in public rental units. It helps the families, who must have at least one child aged below 16, by letting them buy a two-room flexi flat on a shorter lease, with a grant of up to $35,000. Applications opened last Thursday.

One condition of the scheme is that the family must live in the new flat for 20 years before they can resell it, but Dr Maliki said this minimum occupation period (MOP) could be waived in certain cases.

ROOM FOR FLEXIBILITY

There's the MOP for commitment, but there's the flexibility to work on a case-by-case basis.

SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR DEFENCE AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS MALIKI OSMAN, on the minimum occupation period.

"The MOP is to give a sense of contracting with the Government because we are giving them subsidies again. We want to make sure that they are focused on stabilising the families in the long term," he said.

"But, if within 10 years, you are doing very well and you feel that you want to give your children the sense that you can upgrade (to a bigger flat) and do better, why not?"

He added: "There's the MOP for commitment, but there's the flexibility to work on a case-by-case basis."

About 1,000 families could qualify for the scheme. Interested families must apply and be placed on the scheme before applying for a flat.

Dr Maliki said outreach efforts would be made to get families who potentially qualify to understand the options available to them.

He said some families may worry about whether they can afford to buy a new flat and "may need a bit of handholding to look at the sums and what they already have".

Government agencies will work with community partners to help such families and encourage those who do not meet certain eligibility criteria, such as in employment, to seek help to improve their situation so they can apply, he said. One of the scheme's conditions is that at least one parent has been in stable employment in the previous 12 months.

Security supervisor Jamnah Hamzah, 43, is keen to apply. She lives in a two-room rental flat in Woodlands with her two children, aged eight and 19. Her husband is in jail.

She used to own a flat but had to move out due to financial difficulties. She said: "I hope to give my children a better learning environment and stable home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 04, 2016, with the headline 'Fresh Start scheme will be made flexible'. Print Edition | Subscribe