Parliament: HDB to form team dedicated to spot families in rental flats who may be able to buy their own homes

One-room rental flats in Champions Way, off Woodlands Avenue 1. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling said home ownership is central to providing stability and progress for families in the long run.

SINGAPORE - Families in rental homes will get more support to buy their own homes, 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 on Tuesday (March 5), 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), to be set up later this year, 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 one to 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.

Ms Sun also said home ownership is central to providing stability and progress for families in the long run. "Home ownership gives Singaporeans a stake in our country, and gives each family a permanent place to call their own."

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 of such families become home owners each year.

In addition, 74 families have joined the Fresh Start Housing Scheme as of February, 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 into owning an HDB flat for the second time.

Ms Sun added that she will 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, like family conflicts.

"Our priority is to help these families stabilise," she said, adding that her ministry will provide spaces to the Ministry for 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."

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