Parliament: HDB to review how it interacts with single unwed parents

The Housing Board will look at the "various touchpoints" single unwed parents may encounter in their housing journey, said the Ministry of National Development's Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling yesterday.
The Housing Board will look at the "various touchpoints" single unwed parents may encounter in their housing journey, said the Ministry of National Development's Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling yesterday.ST FILE PHOTO

The Housing Board will carry out a comprehensive review of how it interacts with single unwed parents seeking a roof over their heads.

It will look at the "various touchpoints" these parents may encounter in their housing journey, from its e-applications system to front-line officers, said the Ministry of National Development's Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling in Parliament yesterday.

She also said the board will explicitly state on its website that single unwed parents can approach it to apply to buy or rent a flat.

The board will also look at introducing a section dedicated to addressing common housing queries from these parents.

She expressed the hope that these measures would help allay their fears.

"Single unwed parents and their children are our valued citizens. We are committed to do better," she said.

Ms Sun was responding to suggestions Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) made in an adjournment motion, in which he called for more to be done for single unwed parents.

To prevent discrimination, he suggested the HDB simply state in its letter to a single unwed parent that his or her application has been approved, instead of saying it was a "special approval based on compassionate grounds".

He also wanted its website to state a single unwed parent can apply for a flat, and its front-line officers to stop telling these parents they are ineligible for a rental flat.

 
 

Besides the communication methods, Mr Ng also asked the HDB to publish the criteria for single unwed parents to rent public flats, to spare them the anxiety of a case-by-case appeal.

Replying, Ms Sun said the HDB does not "rely on a few pre-determined metrics to understand the applicant's circumstances", adding that often, applicants have more differences than similarities.

This is why all rental applications - not just those made by single unwed parents - are reviewed individually, she said.

Mr Ng also asked the HDB to let single unwed parents under the age of 35 ballot for a two-room flexi flat in non-mature estates.

Ms Sun said she would study the suggestion, taking into account the HDB also has to meet demand for such flats from other applicants, including singles older than 35 and seniors looking for a home that is the right size for their needs.

She noted that policies may not always be able to cater to every single citizen's request and this could lead to frustration.

"But there must always be empathy in our interactions, and this works both ways," she added.

She assured Mr Ng that "applicants will not be rejected merely due to their status as a single unwed parent".

"At the heart of it, I want single unwed parents to know that we share their desire to ensure the well-being of their child, and we will try our best to support them to this end," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2019, with the headline 'HDB to review how it interacts with single unwed parents'. Print Edition | Subscribe