New hope for families with new grant

Families who may have sold their flats and are living in rental housing will soon get a Fresh Start Housing Grant to help buy their own two-room flats, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced during the National Day Rally last week.

They will also get counselling to resolve family, employment and other problems they may be facing. He said the grant will be given if they show they are determined to get back on their feet.

Project 4650 in Siglap has been quietly helping down-and- out families get a fresh start for the past three years. Social service agency Pave and various community groups have been working together to help families without homes become self-reliant, sorting out their housing, employment and childcare needs.

The families live in the Housing Board's Interim Rental Housing (IRH) blocks while awaiting more permanent homes in rental flats or flats of their own.

Mired in numerous problems, some are among Singapore's poorest families, with a per capita income of less than $150 when they first moved in.

Some arrived in the IRH after selling their flats when they could not cope with mortgage arrears. Others include downgraders waiting for smaller flats being built or those waiting for rental flats.

The IRH scheme was introduced in 2009 to provide temporary shelter for financially strapped families with nowhere to live. The rule for most is that two families share a unit, usually a three-bedroom flat. Families are matched by race, religion and family size. Utility bills are split between the families.

Mired in numerous problems, some are among Singapore's poorest families, with a monthly per capita income of less than $150 when they first moved in.

Over the past three years, most of the 1,000 or so families in the two blocks have moved out. About half have gone to rental flats and a third now have their own homes - a distant dream when they first moved in.

To Pave executive director Sudha Nair, the new Fresh Start Housing Grant is a "fantastic scheme" that will give some of the remaining residents the leg up they need.

"It's like the collective voice of these blocks has been heard," she says.

Radha Basu

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'New hope for families with new grant'. Print Edition | Subscribe