HDB: No change in “single parent” policy – who suffers (children)?

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How many single parents have housing problems?

I refer to the article “MND rejects petition to reform public housing policies for single parents” (Straits Times, Nov 30).

It states that “A parliamentary petition by an MP, on behalf of seven single parents, calling for a reform of the public housing policy for single parents has been turned down.

Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng wants the authorities to recognise unmarried parents and their children as a family nucleus, so that they can be eligible for public housing schemes.

The ministry, which oversees public housing, said it has no intention to amend the law and introduce exemptions for unmarried and divorced parents.”

So, does it mean that none of the seven single parents’ appeal for public housing was successful?

As to “It said the Government is committed to housing the nation, and ensuring the well-being of children.

But achieving this goals does not require special legislative exemptions for single parents, it said, adding that the Housing Board already exercises flexibility in appropriate cases” – how many appeals and how many did it “approve” as it “already exercises flexibility in appropriate cases”?

With regard to “HDB can also make changes at policy level, which does not require changing the law, the ministry said.

The petition by the single parents wants housing rules to be more inclusive instead of granting case-by-case exceptions, 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. In 2015, 863 babies were born to unwed mothers, down from the 1,099 born in 2010” – since more than 80 per cent live in public housing – does it mean that as many as 6,970 (80% of 8,713) families may be affected by the “no change” in policy, in just the last year?

How many affected families are there historically – tens of thousands?

In respect of “The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), which submitted a statement supporting the petition, also made several suggestions.

These included letting divorced parents rent public housing or buy subsidised housing immediately after the matrimonial flat is sold.

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

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

The petitioners also wanted to remove debarment periods, which prevent divorced parents from renting from the HDB or owning subsidised flats” – does the MND know the plight of those affected – having to wait as long as 5.5 years for public housing – 2.5 years debarment and 3 years for the BTO flat to be built?

As to “In its reply, MND also 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”” – can the statistics be disclosed as to how many were actually helped?

What is the criteria to qualify to be helped?

“He plans to file a parliamentary question on the criteria single parents need to fulfill before their applications or appeals for public housing are approved.

“This would provide single parents with some assurance at least, that if they meet these conditions they’ll get housing. Now, there’s some uncertainty over this,” he said.”

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.