Parliament: Rental flat families in fresh start scheme will have to live in flats for at least 20 years

The scheme aims to help families living in rental flats with young children move into their own two-room flats. It will be be rolled out by the end of 2016.
The scheme aims to help families living in rental flats with young children move into their own two-room flats. It will be be rolled out by the end of 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Second-timer families who are on the Housing Board public rental scheme and get help to own a new two-room flexi flat, will have to live in the new flat for 20 years before they can resell it "to ensure a stable home for the children", said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament yesterday.

Families who qualify will also get personalised help up to five years after getting the keys to their flat, he said.

He revealed these details of the Fresh Start Housing Scheme during the debate on his ministry's budget

First announced last year, it aims to help families living in rental flats with young children move into their own two-room flats. It will be be rolled out by the end of 2016.

Mr Wong said while the scheme will not have a large reach, it "can and will have a meaningful impact on the families we are reaching out to".

To keep prices affordable, the scheme will apply only to two-room flexi flats with shorter leases of 45 to 65 years. These flats will have a longer Minimum Occupation Period of 20 years instead of five.

 

Eligible families will be able to get a Housing Board concessionary loan regardless of how many such loans they have taken before. They will also be able to use their Central Provident Fund savings for the downpayment and mortgage payments.

And a previously-announced Fresh Start Housing Grant of up to $35,000 will be given out to them in tranches over time.

They will first get $20,000 when they collect the keys to their flat. The rest will be disbursed annually over the next five years, with the total amount pro-rated based on lease length.

But to qualify for the scheme and to get these future tranches, families must show they are committed to making a fresh start. They will have to stay employed, manage their finances well, and ensure their children attend school regularly.

Using a hypothetical worked example, Mr Wong showed how a public rental household which currently pays $240 in rent each month will be able to buy a flat with a monthly instalment of about $300, of which $290 can be paid through CPF and just $10 in cash.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) raised concerns about stringent conditions being attached.

To this, Mr Wong said: "I am very mindful that the conditions should not be onerous. But at the same time, we are making a major move for these families by giving them another grant. So I think it's fair they must be able to show a certain level of commitment towards homeownership."

To track their commitment and make sure they get the help they need, the HDB will work with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to check in regularly on these families from the time they apply for a flat until they collect their keys and for the five years onwards.

 

MSF officers will also link families up with other partners for social support where needed.

"We will hand-hold the families closely and walk this journey with them," said Mr Wong.

If the families encounter difficulties along the way, HDB will consider their circumstances and the effort they are making to meet the conditions, he added.

"In doing so, we will not rely on just a single criterion or matrix but we will exercise discretion and judgment ."

Currently, only about 1,000 families could potentially qualify. This figure refers to current public rental tenants who are second-timers, meet the age requirements for parents and children, and do not have excessive rental arrears.