The Straits Times says

Inclusive touch of HDB living

Recent changes to public housing schemes that widen their reach at both ends of the social spectrum are, of course, primarily aimed at ensuring public housing remains affordable and accessible to all. At the upper end, the Government has raised the income ceilings for Housing Board flats (from $10,000 to $12,000) and executive condominiums (from $12,000 to $14,000). This is to take into account two realities: Incomes have gone up in the four years since the income ceilings were last raised; and Singaporean couples are marrying later, so that by the time they settle down, some would have risen above the ceiling.

At the upper end, young couples are also subject to the inducements of private developers. They might yet succumb at a later stage of their lives, but there is social merit in having them form families in the heartland for starters.

Private housing tends to be segmented and projected as being exclusive. Whereas HDB living offers young families a chance to form social bonds with a much wider range of residents. That is an invaluable cachet that justifies increased state support for public housing ownership.

The income ceiling for the Special Central Provident Fund Housing Grant for first-time homebuyers is to be raised from $6,500 to $8,500, so that the proportion of households qualifying for it willrise from half to two-thirds. The maximum grant is also doubled from $20,000 to $40,000. Coupled with another existing grant of up to $40,000, a low-income household could get up to $80,000 in grants. At the lower end, a family surviving on below $1,000 a month will need to pay only $3,750 in cash or from CPF for a $75,000 flat. That is a considerable benefit by any reckoning.

Of course, it can also be a case of too much of a good thing when families mismanage their finances and sell their flats, only to repeat their actions with their second subsidised flat. The Fresh Start Housing Scheme acknowledges that a helping hand must be given to those with multiple problems so children are not caught inextricably in a poverty trap. It's appropriate to keep flat prices down for second-timer households via shorter leases and stricter resale conditions. A requirement for them to make efforts to put their lives in order will help promote self-reliance .

Collectively, public housing schemes aim to continuously foster mixed communities where people can mingle freely and also help each other - for example, by coaching children in rental flats so they can move up in life via education. Any ghetto mentality (should broken families stick among themselves) would be as unwelcome here as a sense of entitlement (should some keep asking for more housing perks). There's more to providing attractive homes in liveable estates than just building assets for individuals. It's also about bringing people together, bar none.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'Inclusive touch of HDB living'. Print Edition | Subscribe