Single mum has a home to call her own after 8 years in rental flat

Madam Zaidah Ismail was able to buy a two-room flexi flat in Punggol at a more affordable price under the Fresh Start housing scheme in 2019. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE – While living in a public rental flat following her divorce, Madam Zaidah Ismail worked long hours as a security guard to build up her Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings so that she could buy a home.

In 2019, she was able to buy and move into a two-room Housing Board flexi flat in Punggol at a more affordable price under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. This was introduced in 2016 to give rental households that had previously bought a subsidised flat the option to buy their second HDB flat on a shorter lease.

“I was having quite a hard time after my divorce, as I was also diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t have enough CPF savings to buy my own home, so for almost 10 years I worked 12 hours a day, sometimes even on weekends and public holidays,” said Madam Zaidah.

The 57-year-old is now a freelance massage therapist and lives with her son, 20, who is a student. She has two older children aged 32 and 33.

“When I was told about Fresh Start in 2018, I jumped at the opportunity,” said Madam Zaidah, who opted for a 60-year lease. The flat cost about $141,000, including the resale levy, and she received $44,000 in grants.

“It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. After eight years of living in a rental flat, I can now just think of my monthly expenses and save for retirement,” added Madam Zaidah, who managed to pay the purchase price in full.

Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said the HDB’s home ownership support team was set up in 2019 to provide more dedicated support for households like Madam Zaidah’s.

The team guides rental households through the process of home ownership – from planning their purchase till they collect their keys – while considering factors such as family and financial stability.

“When I meet those who have purchased a flat, there is a sense of achievement and happiness... Our aim is to help families living in public rental flats achieve home ownership and inter-generational mobility, so their children can move up the social ladder,” said Dr Faishal.

As at December 2022, the team had reached out to about 1,400 rental households.

Dr Faishal said some tenants may face difficulty in buying a home as they do not have sufficient funds in their CPF Ordinary Account – this may be because they have freelance jobs, for instance. “This is where the Community Link programme comes in, where we can share options for alternative employment with CPF contributions to introduce more stability and opportunities for home ownership.”

Madam Zaidah said having her own home was always the plan, as her rental flat was cramped and not conducive for her children.

“Now, I can have more built-ins, like a TV console and kitchen cabinets. And my children will have a place to live if anything happens to me,” she added.

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