More tenants under HDB's rental scheme buying own flats

SINGAPORE - More tenants under the Housing Board's subsidised rental scheme are buying their own flats.

Since 2011, about 2,500 tenants have bought their first units during new flat launches, said the HDB. Some 610 tenants bought new flats from the HDB in 2011. While this number was 530 in 2012, it subsequently rose to 600 in 2013 and 750 last year.

Under the HDB's Public Rental Scheme, eligible needy families with a household income under $1,500 are provided with rental flats at highly subsidised rates. Monthly rentals for one- and two-room flats start at $26 and $44 respectively, with each tenancy lasting for two years.

Thereafter, the HDB reviews and assesses the tenancy renewal, and tenants deemed financially stable are encouraged to consider buying a flat.

One tenant who recently made the switch from renting to owning a flat is Mr Muhammad Faizal Johari, who runs a catering business.

The 27-year-old father of three sons and his wife rented a one-room flat at York Hill in Outram for seven years.

"There was no space for us to stay at my parents' home, and at that point we couldn't afford a flat," said Mr Muhammad Faizal, who used to take home between $800 to $1,100 a month as the sole breadwinner working odd jobs.

But he eventually started a catering business with his parents and saved up enough to apply for a four-room Build-to-Order flat in 2010. The Bukit Panjang unit, which he moved into last December (2014), cost $248,000, after a $10,000 housing grant from the HDB.

"I really wanted a property for my sons so they will have a place to call their own," said Mr Muhammad Faizal.

There are currently about 50,000 rental units in Singapore, or about 5 per cent of the total stock of over 900,000 flats.