BTO exercise: Families eyeing Fresh Start

File photo of Build-To-Order flats in Punggol. Under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, families that once owned a subsidised HDB flat and now live in public rental homes enjoy priority in buying two-room flexi flats on shorter leases.
File photo of Build-To-Order flats in Punggol. Under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, families that once owned a subsidised HDB flat and now live in public rental homes enjoy priority in buying two-room flexi flats on shorter leases. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Fresh Start programme enabled four families to do just that, when they applied for a flat - again - in the latest Build-To-Order exercise, which closed on Monday.

This is the first exercise in the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, set up last December to help qualifying families own a Housing Board flat.

The four families were among 2,894 applicants who put down their names for 713 two-room flexi flats in Punggol - one of the most hotly contested flat types in the latest exercise.

Under the scheme, families that once owned a subsidised HDB flat and now live in public rental homes enjoy priority in buying two-room flexi flats on shorter - and cheaper - leases of 45 to 65 years. The normal lease is 99 years.

Up to 10 per cent of these flats are reserved for rental flat dwellers applying for a home.

On top of this, such households may also get a grant of up to $35,000. Grants are typically only for first-time home buyers.

They can also apply for a concessionary loan from the HDB.

The scheme has several conditions.

For instance, households must include at least one citizen parent and one child, also a citizen, under the age of 16. And at least one of the family members must have held stable employment for the previous 12 months.

The families must also be assessed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and must not have accumulated three or more months of arrears on their rental flats.

One Fresh Start applicant is a 51-year-old senior security officer who wanted to be known only as Madam Chia.

Drawing a monthly salary of $1,300, she has been living in a two-room rental flat in Toa Payoh since 2010, with her three daughters aged 16, 21 and 25.

Madam Chia previously lived in a three-room flat in Chai Chee and, later, a four-room flat in Marsiling.

Yesterday, she said she was keeping her fingers crossed for a flat in Punggol. "I would like to spend less on rent, and a bit more towards something that is mine and my daughters'," she said in Mandarin.

The Ministry of National Development will be providing more updates - including the number of those in the Fresh Start scheme - at the Committee of Supply debates, which start next week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'BTO exercise: Families eyeing Fresh Start'. Print Edition | Subscribe