HDB may give shorter leases for 'Fresh Start'

It could offer households renting public flats two-room flexi units on shorter leases

An upcoming scheme to help public rental households own a home again could offer two-room flexi flats on shorter leases. Such leases are now only for elderly buyers.

This Fresh Start Housing Scheme includes a new grant, which may be disbursed in tranches subject to conditions, to motivate the new home owners to stay in jobs and put their children through school, for instance.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong shared these latest ideas in a blog post yesterday. Announced at August's National Day Rally, the Fresh Start Housing Scheme is for second-timer families with young children. They would have owned a flat, but sold it and are now public rental tenants.

The Ministry of National Development and the HDB have been gathering views to shape the scheme via public dialogues. One group consulted were former flat owners now living in public rental flats. Most said they wanted to own a flat again but could not get a mortgage, noted Mr Wong.

First, the Fresh Start Housing Scheme will help them with a new Fresh Start Housing Grant, he said.

"Second, we can consider providing them with another HDB concessionary loan," he added.

Third, the HDB will explore offering them two-room flexi flats on shorter leases, which cost less.

Although two-room flexi flats are similar in size to public rental flats, the "big difference" is that the former will be a flat that they pay for and can eventually call their own, said Mr Wong.

Also consulted were former public rental tenants who became home owners. Many had support from friends, family, government agencies and community organisations, and "had a very strong sense of self-motivation", noted Mr Wong. "They all agreed on the importance of securing regular employment, working hard, and putting their children through school, so that the problems do not continue with the next generation."

Social workers, who were consulted, said a key factor was for families to believe in their own ability to succeed. One suggestion was to disburse the housing grant in a few tranches over time, subject to conditions. Mr Wong said this was a good idea which the HDB will consider.

At the National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that families should show they are "determined to get back on their feet, committed to putting their children through school".

AWWA Family Service Centre director Edwin Yim said looking at other aspects such as employment was a good idea: "You cannot look at housing alone. It's really about how to stabilise the household."

The public can send their suggestions for the scheme to feedback@mnd.gov.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'HDB may give shorter leases for 'Fresh Start''. Print Edition | Subscribe