Budget debate: Singles need not find flatmate to apply for public rental flats under new pilot scheme

HDB will set aside a few floors in some rental blocks for singles who are unable to find a flatmate. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singles will be able to apply for public rental flats without having to find a flatmate first under a new pilot model that will be rolled out later this year, said the Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim on Thursday (March 4).

The alternative Joint Singles Scheme (JSS) model seeks to help those who may not be able to find a flatmate on their own, said Dr Faishal during the debate over his ministry's budget.

Under the existing JSS model, two or more single persons may jointly apply for a public rental flat. They can apply with someone they know or they can approach HDB to help source for a flatmate.

With the upcoming pilot model, HDB will set aside a few floors in some rental blocks and appoint a social service agency to manage these flats, including the flat-sharing arrangements.

"The social service agencies will have better expertise to match singles of similar profiles, and to mediate disagreements that may arise. If necessary, they can also arrange for individuals to move to another flat," he said.

He was responding to questions raised by Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten SMC), Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) and Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) on the challenges some individuals may face in finding and living with a flatmate.

However, Dr Faishal noted that most single tenants are prepared to share a flat with someone as this offers them companionship and mutual support, which is especially important for older tenants.

"(Flat-sharing) also allows us to help as many who need a public rental flat as possible, within our limited resources," he said.

That said, HDB will look into requests from those with extenuating circumstances to rent a flat alone. For instance, some people may have medical conditions that make it unfeasible for them to share a flat, he added.

To provide more privacy, HDB has been building new one-room rental flats with partitions that separate sleeping areas, he said. Currently, 705 rental flats have these pre-installed partitions.

Interested tenants living in older one-room rental flats can contact HDB to install such partitions too.

Seniors above 65 years old will also have more housing options in the pipeline.

Plans for a second pilot site for assisted living HDB flats are under study, following the positive response on the first batch of flats in Bukit Batok, said Dr Faishal, in response to Mr Xie Yao Quan (Jurong GRC) and Mr Henry Kwek (Kebun Baru SMC) who asked for an update.

The pilot batch of Community Care Apartments at Harmony Village @ Bukit Batok, launched in February's sales exercise, were well-received, he said. There were 706 applicants vying for the 169 units on offer.

There were 706 applicants vying for the 169 units in the pilot batch of Community Care Apartments in the Harmony Village @ Bukit Batok. PHOTO: ST FILE

Co-developed by the MND, the HDB and the Ministry of Health (MOH), the new housing model is targeted at those aged above 65 who wish to live on their own and yet enjoy some care, support and communal activities.

"With the pilots, we will monitor how the flat design and care services promote the well-being of seniors, both physical and socio-emotional, and support them to age in place," said Dr Faishal.

He also touched on increasing support for families living in public rental housing flats.

Large families with children may be offered a three-room rental flat by the authorities on a case-by-case basis.

"At the moment, we have a very limited supply of such flats, so we will only be able to offer the flats to a small number of families, based on the families' circumstances," he said.

Currently, families with three or more persons living in a one-room flat can approach HDB to transfer to a two-room flat should they need more space. Families with children, parents and grandparents living together can also apply for another flat and the HDB will offer them a rental unit in the same block where possible.

However, he assured the House that all families with children living in public rental flats will receive support under Community Link (ComLink) to achieve stability, self-reliance and social mobility.

Said Dr Faishal: "As far as possible, we aim to uplift (these families) so that they can eventually buy their own home."

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