PAP MPs raised concerns over the impact of relaxing the rental occupancy cap for HDB flats, asking the Government how it would mitigate the issues of neighbour disputes and disamenities.
In the first Parliamentary sitting of 2024, Chairwoman of the GPC for National Development Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC) and MP Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) asked whether the Ministry foresees a rise in neighbour disputes because of the temporary relaxation of the rental cap for larger Housing Board flats and private residential properties, and the mitigation measures to address the concerns of residents.
From January 22, 2024 to December 31, 2026, owners of four-room or larger flats and private homes of at least 90 square metres will be allowed to house up to eight unrelated people who are not from the same family unit, up from the current cap of six.
Replying to MPs’ questions in Parliament, Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How said that as of November 2023, there are approximately 58,000 HDB whole flats that are rented out. This is about 5 per cent of the approximately 1 million HDB flats islandwide. Of this, 16 per cent of these homes are rented out to six unrelated occupants. About 90 per cent of these occupants are non-residents, with most in their 20s or 40s.
SMS Tan revealed that over the past five years, instances of feedback relating to nuisance caused by tenants renting HDB flats or bedrooms made up only 1.5 per cent of the total feedback on nuisances from neighbours. He said HDB will first try to mediate between the parties for such disputes. Should the parties require additional mediative assistance, they should tap on Government initiatives such as the inter-agency Community Dispute Management Framework and the Community Mediation Centre, which provide facilitated mediation sessions that can help parties reach mutually acceptable solutions. In instances where tenants cause serious disamenities, HDB will take firm action by revoking the approval for the rental of the flat or bedrooms.
Regarding concerns of infringements of the occupancy cap and potential dis-amenities that may arise from these temporary relaxation, SMS Tan added that the HDB has put in place measures to mitigate these infringements and the disamenities. For example, HDB regulates who is allowed to rent a HDB flat or a bedroom to minimise disamenities and maintain the Singaporean character of our HDB estates. HDB has put in place the non-citizen quota of 8 per cent for HDB neighbourhoods and 11 per cent for HDB blocks. This limits the number of flats that can be rented out to foreigners in each neighbourhood and block.
Over the past five years, HDB has taken action against an average of 115 cases of unauthorised renting a year, including cases where flat owners have breached the occupancy cap.
MP Foo Mee Har’s (West Coast GRC) asked if HDB will limit the number of flats in each HDB block that will be allowed to house up to eight unrelated people under the new guidelines to prevent overloading of existing infrastructure. Responding, SMS Tan said that while the Ministry does not currently have plans to impose such a cap, the existing non-citizen quota will help to limit the increase in occupants of each block given that most of them renting at occupancy caps are non-citizens.
SMS Tan said the relaxation of the occupancy cap is a temporary measure that will be in place for three years to better meet near-term rental demand. The Government will continue to monitor the demand and supply, as well as residents’ feedback on disamenities. It will consider residents feedback when reviewing whether the relaxed occupancy cap should be extended beyond 2026, he added.
PAP MPs concerned over environmental impact of the Long Island reclamation project
Our MPs also raised concerns on the projected environmental impact of the Long Island land reclamation project.
Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Sustainability and the Environment Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) asked about the steps taken to ensure that construction on Long Island will not significantly impact marine habitats like coral reefs. They also asked whether the public and stakeholders like nature groups will be consulted. MP Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC) asked about the project’s impact on East Coast Parkway.
Replying to the MPs’ questions, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said that detailed environmental studies will be conducted to assess the environmental impact and develop mitigating measures for Long Island. He said these studies will consider the surrounding marine habitats. The Government will also explore ways to incorporate nature-based solutions into the design to minimise the environmental impact. Mr Lee added that the Government will engage the nature community, academics and researchers, as well as the public before starting reclamation work.
As for the planned developments at East Coast Parkway and Long Island, Mr Lee said they offer an integrated solution to meet the multiple needs of future generations. They include the building of new homes with a quality living environment, coastal and reservoir parks and amenities. They will create new jobs.
The planning and implementing of Long Island will take a few decades given its scale. The reclamation project is a testament of how the PAP Government is forward-thinking and sustainable, planning for the country.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.