SINGAPORE - A housing scheme to help public rental families who once owned a Housing Board flat to afford one again is now open for application, the Ministry of National Development and HDB announced in a statement on Thursday (Dec 1).
First mentioned in the 2015 National Day Rally, with details given in this year's (2016) Committee of Supply debate, the Fresh Start Housing Scheme is for families in public rental flats with at least one child below the age of 16. It will help them buy a new flat from the HDB.
In a blog post announcing that applications are open, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said: "Some second-timer public rental families are ready and hoping to own a home again - they are in stable employment, manage their finances well, and have a stable home environment.
"However, they may find it challenging to buy a flat, or have worries about making a substantial financial commitment."
The Fresh Start scheme helps families by letting them buy a two-room flexi flat on a shorter lease - making it more affordable than a flat on a standard 99-year lease - and giving them another HDB concessionary rate loan and a new Fresh Start Housing Grant of up to $35,000.
The scheme comes with various conditions. For instance, at least one of the applicants must have been in stable employment for the previous 12 months. The family must also be assessed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
The MSF and HDB will also check in regularly with families on the scheme to ensure they are on track.
Said Mr Wong: "We are starting with a more targeted approach. So the number of Fresh Start families may not be large to begin with. But we will keep the scheme open, and families who are keen but do not qualify on their first attempt can apply again when they are more ready.
"Meanwhile, I encourage them to persevere toward home ownership and seek help to improve their situation."
Interested families must apply and be placed on the scheme before they apply for a two-room flat in a Build-to-Order or Sale of Balance Flats exercise. They can apply online at the HDB's website or in person at an HDB branch or the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh.
After being placed on the scheme, families may apply for a new flat within a year.
Mr Wong has also appointed a Fresh Start Advisory Committee to support outreach efforts and provide guidance on implementation of the scheme.
"This scheme marks a new way of integrating housing and social assistance, and implementing it will be a learning process for all agencies involved," he noted.
The committee is chaired by Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Mohamad Maliki Osman. Dr Maliki was previously Minister of State for National Development when the Fresh Start Scheme was initiated.