Ethnic quota

Update terms to make it easier for minorities to sell flat

I have been trying to sell my flat for more than three years.

The 1989 Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) - which sets quotas for flats owned by each racial group in a block or precinct - means well, and has a role to play.

The environment has changed dramatically in the past 32 years, but the policy terms seem stuck in the 1990s.

The policy needs to be refined to stay relevant and address unintended harm.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee accepted that the EIP could cause some degree of pain and unhappiness, and that the Government addresses this through appeals to help affected sellers (Ethnic housing policy should be abolished, but not before S'pore reaches race-neutral state, says WP's Pritam Singh, July 5).

In 32 years, flat prices have risen, while loans are a lot more difficult to obtain and various duties have been implemented.

These conditions have created a nightmare for minority sellers, especially for units in prime locations, as the pool of buyers is almost non-existent.

I am single, already past 55 and own a five-room unit in a prime location.

My estate is within 1km of the MRT, malls, library, community club, bus interchange, sports complex, expressway access and top schools and colleges.

I bought it at market price more than a decade ago and laboured to pay off my loan. I did not take any grants or have any special benefit.

It is an asset that should give me security and flexibility today as my personal needs change with age. But instead, it has trapped me.

I have been trying to sell it at market price for the last three years and have not received a single offer.

I have had only three non-serious viewings in the past three years.

I have seen the value of my unit change and am unable to manage my financial plan.

I have written to and met the Housing Board on more than one occasion, as well as met my MP.

Their reply in a nutshell was: "Go find a minority buyer."

We should not be treated on a "case-by-case basis" or under "exceptional circumstances". We all would like to be treated the same.

I log on to HDB's portal on the first of every month to see if I am allowed to sell to the general market (for the last three plus years it has said no).

If by some miracle it is a yes, I would have one month to submit the sale before a potential change in the quota on the first of the following month. Sellers are under time pressure and buyers make use of this.

A wise coffee shop auntie advised me to get married to a majority-race woman so I can sell my HDB flat.

Gerald Patrick

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2021, with the headline 'Update terms to make it easier for minorities to sell flat'. Subscribe