Tenants told to move before BTO flats are ready

Mr John Huang Shuai, 28, is one of the affected residents. The HDB said 220 PPHS households have rented units at the Dover Road site, with most moving on to their newly completed homes.
Mr John Huang Shuai, 28, is one of the affected residents. The HDB said 220 PPHS households have rented units at the Dover Road site, with most moving on to their newly completed homes.ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR, LIM YAOHUI
Mr John Huang Shuai, 28, is one of the affected residents. The HDB said 220 PPHS households have rented units at the Dover Road site, with most moving on to their newly completed homes.
PPHS blocks in Dover RoadST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR, LIM YAOHUI

Those renting units under housing scheme hit as lease on Dover Road site ends on May 31

Their Build-To-Order (BTO) flats are not ready yet, but some home buyers who rent units in Dover Road as interim housing from the Housing Board have been told they still have to move.

This has upset some tenants because it means that they will have to move twice.

The Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS), meant to give these home buyers a chance to start their families earlier, has a clause that caps the tenancy duration at three years, or when the PPHS site is unavailable, whichever is shorter.

But BTO flats typically take up to four years to complete.

About 50 households in three PPHS blocks in Dover Road have been told by the HDB that they have to relocate to a different PPHS site for a short while, before moving again when their BTO flats are ready.

 
  • 50

    Approximate number of households in three PPHS blocks in Dover Road that have been told by the HDB to relocate to a different PPHS site for a short while, before moving again when their BTO flats are ready.

  • About the housing scheme

  • Eligible applicants waiting for their Build-To-Order flats can rent units from the Housing Board under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS) at below market rates.

    These are units vacated under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

    There are 1,300 three- and four-room flats in Bedok South, Commonwealth, Jurong, Tiong Bahru, Eunos, Boon Lay and Bukit Merah under the scheme currently.

    Introduced in January 2013, the scheme was initially extended to first-timer married couples with children under 16.

    Later, married couples comprising first- and second-timer Build-To-Order applicants, those without children, and divorced or widowed parents with children also had access.

    Families can co-rent a flat.

    About 2,000 families have benefited from the PPHS, and more than 400 babies have been born to families living in the flats.

    There are 780 households enrolled in the scheme as of last month.

    Monthly rents for PPHS flats were slashed by as much as $400 from last Saturday, bringing down the rent to less than half of that offered in the open market in some cases.

    Ng Jun Sen

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the HDB said it is "not always possible" to ensure that the PPHS flats will be available until every tenant's BTO flat is completed. This is because the use of the flats is interim in nature.

Applicants can also apply for a PPHS flat at any time, and the waiting times for completion of their new flats vary, said the spokesman.

The lease on the Dover Road site ends on May 31 and all its tenants will have to vacate by then, they told The Straits Times. A letter from the HDB to residents said the site was due for redevelopment.

The HDB spokesman said "Applicants are advised to consider the availability of the PPHS site and choose one that best meets the completion timelines of their new flats."

They will receive two reminders to vacate the site, the first of which was sent a year before the deadline, added the spokesman.

Dover resident Tom Ye, 41, said he will have to move his family to an alternative PPHS site in Commonwealth Drive for about a month, before moving again when his Ghim Moh four-room BTO unit is ready in mid-June. He pays $1,700 a month for the Dover Road flat.

MPs call for more flexibility

Added Mr Ye, an IT engineer: "I have a lot of furniture and with two young kids, it will be a lot of hassle to keep moving."

While Mr Ye is grateful for the scheme, he wonders if the HDB could have allowed him to remain.

The HDB said 220 PPHS households have rented units at the Dover Road site, with a majority moving on to their newly completed homes.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh, who is a member of the Governmental Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development, said he understands the residents' frustrations: "I don't see why there is a need to move them here and there before they can collect their keys."

Fellow GPC members Darryl David and Lee Bee Wah also said HDB should consider the impact on residents and allow flexibility. But they added that residents should also be fair.

Said Ms Lee: “In construction, there are always so many factors that can impact completion deadlines, which are beyond everyone’s control. While every effort is taken to keep the (transition) smooth, sometimes gaps can unfortunately occur.”

Mr David said private landlords also define finite tenancy terms including lease period.

But he said more can be done to help these tenants during this “transitory periods”, such as with the home mover fees. HDB can also be flexible and consider extending the lease for those who need the home for another three months or so, he added.

Mr Gan suggested that the lease expiry be aligned with the applicant’s BTO completion date from the onset.

Some former Dover residents, like photojournalist Mr Roslan Abdul Rahman, said his family started making plans to move after they got the HDB letters.

He now rents a four-room PPHS flat in Tiong Bahru and does not feel it is unreasonable for HDB to relocate him if they need the land back.

Said the 55-year-old: “I know some of my former neighbours are unhappy, but I was well aware of the risks when I applied for PPHS. It is something that you can anticipate so that you can minimise the inconvenience.”

Mr David said private landlords also define finite tenancy terms, including the lease period. But he said more can be done to help the tenants during these "transitory periods", such as with the home mover fees. The HDB can also consider extending the lease for those who need the home for another three months or so, he added.

Mr Gan suggested that the lease expiry be aligned with the applicant's BTO completion date from the onset.


Note: This story has been updated with more details

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'Tenants told to move before BTO flats are ready'. Print Edition | Subscribe