PARLIAMENT

Petition for more inclusive housing policies

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) yesterday submitted a petition to Parliament that called for more inclusive housing policies that will cover unmarried and divorced parents as well.

The petition, which he filed on behalf of seven single parents, looks to make changes to the Housing and Development Act to rule out discrimination based on marital status.

Mr Ng said: "The petitioners allege that the current provisions on public housing are not inclusive."

This is because unwed parents and their children are not seen as a family nucleus when it comes to eligibility for public housing.

Meanwhile, divorced parents face a three-year debarment, during which only one party can own a subsidised flat. Those who had owned a flat also cannot rent from the Housing Board for 30 months after the flat is sold.

The petition Mr Ng presented comes at a time when divorce rates are climbing - there were 7,614 divorces and annulments last year, up by 1.2 per cent from 2015. He cited a study by women's rights group Aware, which found that 95 per cent of single mothers who sought public housing faced difficulties.

In his speech, Mr Ng pointed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Singapore is a party to.

"Singapore has obligations under this international convention to ensure the rights of the child without discrimination on the basis of their parents' marital status," he said.

Mr Ng, who is a father of three girls, said: "I cannot imagine going through my parenthood journey alone and I can appreciate how difficult it must be for single parents."

The petition was referred to the Public Petitions Committee.

In response, the Ministry of National Development and the Ministry of Social and Family Development said they look forward to hearing from the committee.

The ministries explained that they look at cases individually as "every case is unique".

The HDB and social service agencies will also assist families facing difficulties, in various ways, including providing counselling, financial assistance and advice on their housing options, the ministries said.

They also said Singapore remains committed to becoming "a great place for children and families to thrive and grow in".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'Petition for more inclusive housing policies'. Print Edition | Subscribe