The debate surrounding the affordability and accessibility of public housing has been a hot topic in recent months.
On Day 5 of our Committee of Supply debates, Minister for National Development Mr Desmond Lee and Minister of State (MOS) Dr Faishal Ibrahim reiterated the Government’s commitment to providing good homes for everyone.
So whether you are young or old, married or single, housing policies in Singapore are constantly evolving to ensure that no one is left out.
Helping married couples with their first home
Families form the bedrock of our nation, and so helping young married couples with their first home is and should be a national priority.
For that reason, Minister Lee spoke at length about a slew of measures designed to help first-timer families.
Besides increasing the supply of BTO flats and clearing the backlog caused by delays during Covid-19, first-timer families who prefer to buy from the resale market will benefit from increased CPF housing grants.
Responding to questions on whether additional grants would cause resale prices to rise even more, Minister Lee said that while there is such a risk, the uncertain economic environment necessitates such a move to provide targeted support to eligible families.
Next, Minister Lee also introduced a new sub-category within the first-timers group.
Referred to as First-Timer (Parents & Married Couples) or FT(PMC), families with children aged 18 and below and married couples aged 40 and below embarking on their homeownership journey will enjoy enhanced support, said Minister Lee.
Applicants, for instance, will receive three ballots in total, up from the current two, when they apply for a new HDB flat.
They will also qualify for the Family and Parenthood Priority Scheme, allowing them to enjoy first dibs if they opt for a 4-room or smaller flat in a non-mature estate.
These measures, together with tighter rules for the non-selection of flats, will prioritise public housing for those who need and want it the most.
Supporting singles with their housing aspirations
Moving on, Minister Lee drew attention to singles — a growing minority whose housing needs have often been overlooked.
Recognising the challenges single people face in purchasing a flat, the Government has increased the allocation quota for singles buying 2-room Flexi flats from 50% to 65% —a move which Minister Lee said will help singles improve their chances of securing a flat
Meanwhile, low-income singles are not forgotten.
According to MOS Faishal, the Government will expand the Joint Singles Scheme Operator-Run (JSS-OR) pilot, a public rental housing scheme run by social service agencies.
The three sites, at Bukit Panjang, Bidadari, and Sengkang, will be able to accommodate 600 tenants and provide low-income singles with more options, said MOS Faishal.
There was a time (i.e. before 1991) when singles were not even allowed to buy an HDB flat.
But since then, the PAP has come a long way to implement progressive and inclusive housing options for all Singaporeans.
Many singles — young and older — shared their perspectives and challenges on housing via the Forward Singapore Housing Conversations, said Minister Lee.
“We are closely studying what they’ve told us, to see how else we can support their housing aspirations, including through co-living models or other types of housing arrangements.”
Providing seniors with more housing options
Lastly, we have seniors, a group with different yet complex housing needs.
To help seniors age in place, Minister Lee announced the launch of a third Community Care Apartment (CCA) project in Bedok later this year, one of many that the Government plans to build across Singapore in the years ahead.
Elaborating further on the point, MOS Faishal shared that CCA, a new housing option that pairs senior-friendly housing with care services, will encourage active ageing and provide opportunities for residents of different ages to interact.
Ultimately, Minister Lee noted that no public housing system is perfect. The key is to learn from experiences and seek improvement continuously.
“The current system may not always work perfectly, and we will continue to adjust and calibrate along the way. But it does seem to strike a reasonable balance across multiple objectives – fairness and efficiency in allocating flats, fiscal prudence, and responsiveness to demand.”
“And we will work closely with Singaporeans to ensure that the future of Singapore remains bright, inclusive and liveable,” he said.
Images: HDB, MCI/YouTube, Tan Kiat How/Facebook