Burden of maintaining racial quota should not lie on minority sellers

I read with great interest the article on the Housing Board ethnic quota (HDB ethnic quota: Tough sell for owners of minority race; Oct 7).

I have two alternative suggestions that could improve the current situation.

First, if the minority quota in a given block or neighbourhood falls too low, all sellers - not just the minority sellers - in that block or neighbourhood should be restricted to selling to only minorities.

This spreads out the burden of finding minorities for that block or neighbourhood instead of just placing the burden on the minority seller.

It is fairer because some minority sellers would have bought their current flats before the policy was announced and may not have factored racial quotas in their buying decision. These sellers will now be stuck.

This approach would also even out all selling prices in that block or neighbourhood rather than lead to two different price ranges for minority and majority sellers.

Second, an even more equitable approach would be to remove all restrictions to sellers - that is, allow everyone to sell to any buyer regardless of racial quota.

This is because the burden should not be on the seller to choose who should "replace" him in a block or neighbourhood.

Instead, that burden should be shifted to the buyers.

Introduce a new tax or rebate, or modify the existing stamp duty such that buyers who purchase flats in neighbourhoods with a high representation of people of the same race will have to pay an extra surcharge, while those who buy a flat in an area with a low similar racial make-up can get a discount.

The percentage of the surcharge or rebate can be tied to the ideal racial quota for that area.

This will guide the buyer in his decision on the areas to focus on, and he will be able to go in with his eyes wide open.

I support the ethnic integration policy as a step in the right direction, but I hope the authorities will consider such improvements.

At the end of the day, the burden of maintaining the racial quota in an area should not lie solely on minority sellers.

Syed Fauzi Syed Mohthar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2018, with the headline 'Burden of maintaining racial quota should not lie on minority sellers'. Print Edition | Subscribe