Housing woes of a single mother?

Amy and Mary (not their real names) came with Jane, a 35 year old unmarried single mother, who is staying in a shared 3-room HDB flat under the Interim Housing Scheme (IHS) with her 4 year old son and 55 year old mother.

Amy and Mary used to stay ia a homeless shelter, and are now staying in the IHS.

Jane pays $245 monthly rental plus utilities in the IHS.

Jane’s mother sold her 3-room HDB flat a few years ago because of her brother’s financial difficulties.

Stayed in 11 places

Jane, her son and mother have stayed in about 11 places over the last three years or so – with relatives, friends, rented HDB rooms, etc.

Her mother works as a school attendant with a take home pay of $600 plus a month, and Jane is currently unemployed.

Jane has Secondary Two education and used to work as a factory operator for about $5 an hour. But, she had to resign because the location of the IHS flat offered to her is in Jurong, whereas the room they were staying, son’s childcare centre and work place were near Bukit Panjang.

She is now in the process of moving her son to a childcare centre near her IHS flat. She is also trying to find a job in Jurong.

30-month debarment period

She has seen her Member of Parliament (MP) about six times, and was informed by HDB that there is a 30-month debarment period before anyone who has sold a HDB flat can apply for a rental flat.

After waiting out the 30-month debarment period, she applied for a HDB rental flat.

Ethnic Quota for rental flats

She was subsequently informed that a rental flat was available. However, about a month later, she was told that the flat was no longer available because of the Ethnic Quota.

She now has to wait for perhaps many more months for a flat.

I would like to suggest that we try to be more flexible and waive the Ethnic Quota for rental flat applicants who are financially stressed.

Are there vacant rental flats due to the Ethnic Quota?

How many of such vacant flats are there?

Pay 5 times more because 2nd-timer?

She was told that her rental for a 1-room flat would be $165 a month because she is considered a 2nd-timer because her mother (a registered occupier of the rental flat) had sold a HDB flat before, and also that her household income would exceed $800 once she manages to find another job.

I understand that a 1st-timer would only have to pay about $26.

Why did we change the HDB rental policy a few years ago to increase the rental for such 2nd-timer families with such low household income?

Are we saying that low-income families who need a rental flat, can afford to pay more, just because they ever owned a HDB flat – including those whose flats were compulsorily acquired because they could not pay their mortgage payments?

I think it may be quite normal in the course of life events, for previous HDB flat owners to end up in a state of financial stress.

With just her mother’s $600 plus pay now, she can hardly make ends meet for her family of three.

Discrimination against unmarried single mothers

She originally applied for a 2-room flat, but was told that as an unmarried single mother, she is only eligible to apply for a 1-room flat, despite there being three family members.

She was told that only married single mothers in a situation like hers can apply for a 2-room flat.

Why do we have housing policies which discriminate against low-income unmarried single mothers?

It may be the children who suffer at the end of the day.

Ministry of Social and Family Development – please help

With the establishment of the new Ministry of Social and Family Development, perhaps it could relook some of the policies above, and try to be more compassionate towards the plight and housing woes of low-income Singaporeans like Jane and her family.


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.