Single parents who petitioned for changes to housing policy disappointed at rejection

Under current rules, divorced parents who own a HDB flat have to wait 30 months before they can rent from the board. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Single parents who petitioned the Government to have the parents and their children recognised as a family nucleus for public housing purposes said they are disappointed that the move was rejected.

Among other things, the petitioners wanted to remove debarment periods, which prevent divorced parents from renting from the Housing Board or owning subsidised flats.

Under current rules, divorced parents who own a HDB flat have to wait 30 months before they can rent from the board.

Divorcees also face a three-year debarment, during which only one party can own a subsidised HDB flat.

Single parent Jamie, who signed the petition, said: "I'm truly disappointed in the way it was handled."

She said the Public Petitions Committee did not speak to her directly, and only relied on a report by the Ministry of National Development (MND).

"The policies punish us in a society with a high cost of living and the authorities are not listening," she added.

Eve, a single parent who also signed the petition, added: "I hope the Government will take a more cohesive approach to support single-parent families. Let Singapore be a better place where we are one family, without walls differentiating parents who are all trying to build a home for their children."

A report by the committee and a response by MND, made public on Wednesday (Nov 29), rejected the petition by seven single parents, which was submitted by Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng on their behalf in September.

MND said it has no intention to amend the law and introduce exemptions for unmarried and divorced parents, adding that the Government is committed to housing the nation, and ensuring the well-being of children.

The ministry said HDB is able to make changes at policy level, which does not require changing the law.

The single parents had hoped that instead of granting case-by-case exceptions, housing rules could be made more inclusive at a time when divorce rates are climbing.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) said the Government has missed out on meeting the needs of some vulnerable families here.

Aware had submitted a statement supporting the petition, and made several suggestions including letting divorced parents rent public housing or buy subsidised housing immediately after the matrimonial flat is sold.

Ms Jolene Tan, head of advocacy and research at Aware, said: "Single parents have made it clear that, despite MND's promises, housing policies aren't meeting their needs."

"The Committee has missed an opportunity to respond to the needs and concerns of Singapore's vulnerable families."

In its reply on Wednesday, MND had said it is mindful "not to undermine the prevailing social norm of parenthood within marriage" when helping unmarried parents.

It added: "A range of government agencies work together to ensure that no child is without adequate housing, regardless of whether his or her parents are single or married."

Mr Ng told The Straits Times earlier he plans to file a parliamentary question on the criteria single parents need to fulfil before their applications or appeals for public housing are approved.

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