Parliament: HDB to review how it communicates with single unwed parents, following MP's call for more to be done

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling said the Housing Board will explicitly state on its website that single unwed parents can approach it to apply to buy or rent a flat.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling said the Housing Board will explicitly state on its website that single unwed parents can approach it to apply to buy or rent a flat.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT

SINGAPORE - 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 touch points" these parents may encounter in their housing journey, from its e-applications system to frontline officers, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling in Parliament on Monday (Sept 2).

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."

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 to ballot for a two-room flexi flat in non-mature estates.

Ms Sun said she would study the suggestion, taking into account that the HDB also has to meet demand for such flats from other applicants, including singles older than 35 years old 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.