A flat of her own at last

Madam Serene Tay in her new flat, for which renovations were recently completed. She received the keys to her Choa Chua Kang unit in October. She is taking her time to move in, but intends to be settled in before Chinese New Year next month.
Madam Serene Tay in her new flat, for which renovations were recently completed. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

When singles were allowed to buy new public flats in 2013, it was the end to more than a decade of waiting for Madam Serene Tay.

The 53-year-old, who is in the fashion wholesale business, is one of about 700 singles who have collected the keys to their new Housing Board flats.

After spending some years abroad for business, Madam Tay returned to Singapore 11 years ago. She considered buying a resale three-room flat, but could not find one that she liked.

"When I saw the units, I was so scared!" she recalled. "The places were dirty and the neighbours didn't seem friendly." She wanted a brand new unit, and decided to wait.

In the meantime, she lived with her sister's family in their five-room flat in Choa Chu Kang, and continued to hope that she would one day be able to buy a new flat .

When singles were finally allowed to do so, in the July 2013 Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise, she applied, even though the units were in "faraway" Sengkang and Yishun. She was not successful.

The HDB's next sales exercise had a wider selection, with additional two-room flats from previous BTOs being released to singles, including 47 units in Choa Chu Kang.

Madam Tay managed to get one of them. She received her keys in October and recently finished making renovations. She said: "I want my house to be like a private apartment."

Though her furniture arrived on Wednesday, she is not in a rush to move in; as long as she does so in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations in next month. "I'm taking the time to do it slowly, to decide where to put this piece of furniture, where to put that piece," she said. "Now that I finally have a flat, I want to do this properly."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2016, with the headline A flat of her own at last. Subscribe