Debate on ministries’ budgets

HDB setting up team to help rental-flat families buy own homes

Senior Parliamentary Secretary or National Development Sun Xueling said home ownership is key to providing stability and progress for families in the long run. PHOTO: GOV.SG

Families in rental homes will get more support to buy their own flats, as the Housing Board sets up a team dedicated to looking out for households with the potential to qualify for home ownership.

Announcing the upcoming move yesterday, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling said: "We have learnt that having someone to consult, and more importantly, to provide the human touch, is important for our tenants."

The Home Ownership Support Team (HST) will comprise five to seven members who aim to reach out to about 1,000 families over the next four to five years.

To be set up later this year, it is part of a slew of measures unveiled by four ministries in Parliament to mitigate income inequality and uplift lower-income families in a more holistic way.

Currently, families in rental homes are evaluated on an ad hoc basis, like when they renew their tenancy every two years.

Ms Sun said the new team will help the tenants identified to navigate the flat-buying process, advise them on their budget and options, and check in on them to ensure they remain on track to collect the keys to the home they will own.

"We want to provide stronger, personalised hand-holding for families who are ready for home ownership," she added.

She said home ownership is key to providing stability and progress for families in the long run.

And by using their Central Provident Fund savings to pay the mortgage, they get an asset as well instead of using their cash to pay rent, she said, adding that she agreed with MPs who said public rental should only be temporary for tenants who can work.

About 3,500 rental-flat families have become first-time flat buyers in the last six years. On average, about 600 such families become home owners each year.

Also, 74 families have joined the Fresh Start Housing Scheme as of last month, said Ms Sun. Five of these second-timer families have since collected the keys to their flats.

The scheme was introduced in December 2016 to help families move from public rental to owning an HDB flat for the second time.

Ms Sun added that she would share more details about enhancements to the scheme during the debate on her ministry's budget later.

She also noted that home ownership may not be an immediate goal for some tenants, who may first need to address more complex challenges such as family conflicts.

She said her ministry will provide spaces to the Ministry of Social and Family Development to set up social service hubs near rental flats to offer localised services.

"Once these families have stabilised, we look forward to engaging them, for HDB to kick-start their journey towards home ownership," said Ms Sun.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline HDB setting up team to help rental-flat families buy own homes. Subscribe