Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of National Development

HDB help for vulnerable groups

As divorce rates climb, several MPs urged the Housing Board to let people apply for a flat even before their divorce is finalised, so that they have a roof over their heads after the marriage ends.

Divorcees, unwed mothers, divorced foreign spouses and elderly singles in rental flats were among the vulnerable groups for whom MPs sought more help.

Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said that while criteria are drawn up to ensure policy objectives, they are not applied in a blanket manner.

He cited how atypical families who did not fulfil some policies' criteria were helped. "The HDB takes a compassionate approach towards these cases in need."

He also gave updates on various HDB schemes. The Assistance for Second-Timers scheme, which gives priority to divorced or widowed parents with children under 16, has received 282 applicants as of end 2015.

Of these, 199 cases - or 71 per cent - went on to book a flat. Sixty-six did not proceed despite qualifying, he added, and 17 fell outside the quota.

On singles sharing public rental flats, Dr Koh noted that some do not get along and that the HDB had put out 180 rental flats with partitions for more privacy since 2015. Another 320 are under construction.

The Fresh Start Housing Scheme, to help families renting public flats own a home again, has received 68 applications from families who meet the basic criteria, he said. Of these, 13 qualify and four of them have applied for two-room flexi flats in last month's Build-To-Order exercise. The remaining applications are being processed.

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'HDB help for vulnerable groups'. Print Edition | Subscribe