Quota for HDB subletting to foreigners: 8% cent for neighbourhoods, 11% for blocks

Housing Board (HDB) flats in Toa Payoh. From Thursday, foreigners and permanent residents will not be able to rent more than eight per cent of flats in each HDB neighbourhood, and no more than 11 per cent of units in each HDB block. -- ST FILE P
Housing Board (HDB) flats in Toa Payoh. From Thursday, foreigners and permanent residents will not be able to rent more than eight per cent of flats in each HDB neighbourhood, and no more than 11 per cent of units in each HDB block. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

From Thursday, foreigners and permanent residents will not be able to rent more than eight per cent of flats in each Housing Board (HDB) neighbourhood, and no more than 11 per cent of units in each HDB block.

The caps - the first of their kind - are "to prevent the formation of foreigner enclaves in HDB estates, and maintain the Singaporean character of our HDB heartlands", the Housing Board said in a statement. Malaysians are exempt as they "can better integrate... due to their cultural and historical similarities with Singaporeans".

Existing tenants will not be affected immediately, as flat owners subletting their flats with HDB approval can continue to do so for the remaining period that was previously approved by the HDB.

The quota applies only to the subletting of whole flats and not rooms. This is to reduce the impact on those who rely on subletting for income, "especially the elderly and low-income households", added the Board.

Though no figures were given for how many foreigners rent rooms, a July parliamentary reply by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan stated foreign workers renting flats or rooms form about five per cent of the total population in HDB flats.

The introduction of a quota on subletting to foreigners was signalled last month by Mr Khaw. The idea had earlier been raised in the 2013 Budget debate by West Coast GRC MP Foo Mee Har, who suggested a 10 per cent cap for each block.

In his blog post last month, Mr Khaw noted that less than four per cent of all HDB flats are currently sublet to foreigners. But the proportion could rise as high as nine per cent in some neighbourhoods or even 18 per cent in some blocks, he added.

To let people check whether a unit can be sublet to foreigners, a new e-Service has been made available on the HDB's website. The information will be updated on the first day of each month and will be valid for the whole month.

Flat owners can use the service to check whether they are allowed to sublet to non-citizens or only to Singaporeans and Malaysians. The HDB also reminded flat owners that unauthorised subletting is "a serious infringement of the lease". Errant flat owners can face a fine or compulsory acquisition of their flat.

For enquiries, call 1800-555-6370 from Mondays and Fridays, 8am to 5pm.