Speech by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for National Development, at the Committee of Supply Debate on Tues, 2 Mar 2023, in Parliament
Mar 2, 2023
BUILDING AN INCLUSIVE HOME
1. Mdm Chairman, I thank Members for their suggestions and ideas on supporting the housing needs of seniors, lower-income and more vulnerable households.
2. In my speech, I will share more about how the MND Family is building an inclusive and caring home for Singaporeans.
3. I will focus on three main areas:
a. Empowering lower-income households by pairing housing with social support;
b. Taking care of the housing needs of seniors; and
c. Partnering the community to create vibrant and endearing places.
Empowering Lower-income Households through Housing Plus Social Support
4. Our commitment to provide affordable and accessible housing is for all Singaporeans, including lower-income households.
a. Recognising that they start off with less, we have designed our system to provide more help to them – for example, through housing schemes and grants that are tiered by income – so that with a stable job, they too can buy a home of their own.
b. As a result, Singapore’s home ownership rate is one of the highest in the world, including for our lower-income households.
Taking Care of the Housing Needs of Low-Income Households
5. At the same time, some families may not be ready for home ownership yet, because they need to build up and stabilise their finances first.
6. For low-income households who do not have other housing options, our Public Rental Scheme serves as a social safety net – providing these households a safe space and a stable base, where they can build up their stability and self-reliance, and eventually buy their own flat.
a. The rents are highly-subsidised, to ensure that they are affordable.
7. I thank Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Ms Sylvia Lim for their cuts.
8. I would like to clarify that there is no income ceiling for the Public Rental Scheme.
a. As we have shared before, we assess all requests for public rental flats holistically, considering all relevant factors, including applicants’ household size, family support, housing budget, and housing options.
b. For those who have no other housing options, we will assist them with a public rental flat.
9. Due to COVID-19, we saw higher demand in 2020 and 2021.
10. The severe labour crunch in the construction industry also disrupted how quickly HDB could build new rental flats and spruce up vacated ones before renting them out to new tenants.
11. To overcome the sprucing delays, HDB worked closely with its contractors and brought in new ones.
12. HDB also streamlined the customer journey for rental applicants, to allow them to select from available flats across Singapore.
a. This alleviated the longer waiting time in certain regions.
13. As a result of these efforts, we have reduced the average waiting time to about six months currently.
a. For applicants who are in urgent need of a rental flat, HDB will prioritise allocating a flat to them.
14. We will continue to monitor the demand closely, given potential economic headwinds, and we are studying options to augment the supply.
15. We have also been improving the living environment for our tenants and ensuring that our HDB neighbourhoods are inclusive.
a. Our newer rental blocks and flats have better designs, lighting, and ventilation.
b. We have also been building rental flats with sold flats in the same BTO projects, and where possible, we build rental flats in the same blocks as sold flats.
c. I thank Ms Sylvia Lim for acknowledging these improvements.
16. Mr Murali Pillai and Ms Sylvia Lim spoke about tackling overcrowding in public rental flats and providing larger flats to large families with young children.
a. We understand these concerns, and we want to help parents to provide a better home environment for their children.
17. For all families staying in public rental, our goal is to uplift them, so that they can buy their own flat eventually.
a. That is why we provide significant support to help families to own a home.
18. While they build up their finances, we do our best to take care of their housing needs, through public rental.
a. Families with at least three members can be allocated a 2-room public rental flat.
b. Those that form two family nuclei, such as families with children, parents, and grandparents living together, can apply for another flat.
c. We will offer them a second flat in the same block where possible.
Pairing Rental Housing with Social Support
19. Some families staying in public rental flats face complex and interlocking challenges, which make it difficult for them to progress to home ownership.
a. So we are going upstream to provide support in a holistic way that addresses each family’s unique set of needs and aspirations.
20. As part of this effort, we worked with MSF to launch the ComLink Rental Scheme in November last year, to pair rental housing with holistic support for families with children.
a. Once a family applies for a public rental flat from HDB and is assessed to be eligible, the family will be automatically enrolled in ComLink.
b. A ComLink officer will contact the family to understand their situation and connect them with relevant assistance, even before they move into their rental flat.
c. After the family moves into their rental flat, a ComLink officer will continue to journey with the family, regularly check in on how they are doing, and coordinate support from Government and community partners.
d. As of end-January 2023, ComLink officers have engaged over 130 families under this scheme.
21. By providing coordinated support early, right from the time that families enter rental housing, we believe that we can support more families to achieve stability, self-reliance, and ultimately social mobility.
a. MSF will share more about ComLink at their COS.
Supporting Families in Public Rental to Move to Home Ownership
22. When families have built up their finances with stable employment and income, they can count on our full support to buy a flat of their own.
23. For example, they can receive one-to-one guidance through their homebuying journey from HDB’s Home ownership Support Team, or HST.
a. Over the past three years, HST has reached out to about 1,400 households.
b. Among them, about 370 households are assessed to be ready to apply for a flat in the next one to two years, about 100 households are waiting for their new home to be completed, and about 60 households have collected the keys to their new home.
24. One family who has moved into their new home is Mdm Nurul and Mr Rozi.
a. After getting married, the couple stayed together in public rental for about 11 years. As the family grew in size, they moved from a 1-room flat to a 2-room flat.
b. As their children grew older, the couple set themselves the goal of buying their own home, to provide more space for the family.
c. Mr Rozi worked as a cleaner, while Mdm Nurul took care of the family.
d. When they received HST’s outreach SMS in 2020, they contacted HST.
e. Our HST officer guided the couple to understand their housing budget and options, and the support available.
f. With that knowledge, the couple applied for a 3-room balance flat at Ang Mo Kio, to be nearer to their child’s school.
g. With a stable job and income, they were able to qualify for the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant and an HDB housing loan.
h. They moved into their flat in October 2021, and they are happy to have their own home. Mdm Nurul also started working as a canteen assistant, to supplement the family's income.
25. Some families had to move into public rental housing after losing their flat due to financial difficulties or other life events. To provide more help to such second-timer families with children, we enhanced the Fresh Start Housing Scheme last year.
a. We increased the grant to $50,000 to boost their housing budget.
b. In addition to 2-room Flexi flats, starting from the ongoing February BTO sales exercise, Fresh Start families can also buy 3-room flats with a shorter lease, which will be more affordable.
c. We hope the enhancements will encourage more families to work towards buying their own home.
26. In the past 10 years, 7,800 households who stayed in public rental have progressed to home ownership.
a. We are happy for every one of them.
b. Their success stories show that home ownership is achievable for families staying in public rental, with hard work and commitment on their part, coupled with strong support from the Government and the community.
Improving the Public Rental Scheme for Singles
27. We have also been making improvements to public rental housing for low-income single tenants, who rent under the Joint Singles Scheme, or JSS.
28. While many of them can find a flat mate and live together amicably, we know that some find it difficult.
29. We have been working on addressing concerns about the JSS, while managing within our land and resource constraints.
30. Since 2015, we have been building new rental flats with high partitions, to provide more privacy for tenants in their sleeping areas. These have been well-received by our tenants.
a. We have also been installing partitions in existing flats at tenants' request since 2019.
b. There are now about 1,300 flats with partitions.
31. In 2021, we started piloting the JSS Operator-Run model, or JSS-OR.
a. For each JSS-OR site, HDB appoints a social service agency to manage and mediate the flat-sharing arrangements, and provide social support to tenants.
32. Several Members have asked for an update on the pilot.
33. We currently have three JSS-OR sites – in Bedok, Buangkok, and Bukit Batok – which can accommodate around 400 tenants in total.
a. The pilot has been well-subscribed, and all three sites are close to full occupancy.
b. The feedback from our tenants has been positive and they appreciate having the operator on-site.
c. While some differences between co-tenants are inevitable, most can be resolved through early mediation by the operator, which prevents disagreements from escalating.
d. The operators also conduct regular check-ins with the tenants, and organise social activities for them.
34. One JSS-OR tenant is Mdm Chan, who is 75 years old, and stays in a 1-room flat at Bukit Batok with her flat mate.
a. They share a good bond and often help each other out. For example, Mdm Chan, who is bilingual, helps to translate letters and conversations in English for her mandarin-speaking flat mate.
b. Mdm Chan also gets along well with her neighbours. She enjoys cooking, and shares her home-cooked food with her neighbours. She also participates in social activities and celebrations organised by the operator, New Hope Community Services.
c. When my HDB colleagues met Mdm Chan recently, she shared with them that she is happy to be staying there.
35. I am happy to share that given the positive experience thus far, we will expand the pilot to three new sites.
a. The three sites, at Bukit Panjang, Bidadari, and Sengkang, will be able to accommodate 600 tenants in total.
b. We expect to open the new sites for application by the end of this year.
36. We will continue to learn from this pilot, and find more ways to improve the lives of singles in public rental.
Taking Care of the Housing Needs of Divorcees and their Children
37. Some face housing difficulties due to unexpected and unfortunate life events, such as divorce.
a. Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Mr Murali Pillai spoke about some of these difficulties.
38. We have been adjusting our policies over the years to take care of their housing needs, and smoothen the housing transition for them.
a. We want to ensure that they have a stable home, especially for their children.
39. Divorcees with children can buy a subsidised flat from HDB or a resale flat on the open market, and qualify for the same housing schemes and grants as other families.
a. Those who are buying a flat as second-timers can receive priority under the ASSIST scheme when they apply for a 2-room Flexi or 3-room BTO flat in non-mature estates.
b. Those who require interim accommodation while waiting for their BTO flats to be completed can apply to rent a flat under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme.
40. For divorcees who cannot afford to buy a subsidised flat and do not have other housing options or family support, HDB will assist them with public rental housing.
a. Those in very urgent need of housing can also seek help from MSF’s shelters while applying for a public rental flat.
41. We understand that divorcing parties want assurance on their next housing arrangement.
42. Since Mar 2019, HDB allows divorcing parties who have not finalised their divorce to apply for a flat from HDB, once they have obtained the Interim Judgement of divorce, and resolved the ancillary matters relating to the matrimonial property and the custody, care and control of their children.
a. These matters have to be resolved as they affect the parties’ eligibility to purchase a flat.
43. Divorcing parties also do not need to wait until their matrimonial flat is sold before applying for a new flat.
a. They are given up to six months after collecting the keys to their new flats to sell their matrimonial flat, which is generally sufficient for flat owners.
b. For those who need more time to sell their flat due to special circumstances, HDB will assess each request based on its merits.
44. Mr Murali spoke about ensuring that the housing needs of the children are addressed when the Court decides on the division of the matrimonial flat.
45. When deciding the division of the matrimonial flat, the Court does consider the welfare and needs of the children, and may consider HDB’s input.
a. For example, HDB will provide information to the Court on the matrimonial flat and post-divorce housing options for the divorcing parties and their children when asked by the Court.
b. The Court can also refer divorcing parents to HDB for housing counselling before the divorce is finalised, for them to better understand their post-divorce housing options.
46. We will continue to work with the Court to find ways to improve these processes, to ensure that the housing needs of the children are taken care of.
Making our Homes and Towns More Inclusive for Seniors
47. Let me move on to address the cuts on seniors.
48. We want to ensure that our HDB flats and towns support our seniors to live long, healthy, and happy lives, within the communities they are familiar with.
49. We have been planning ahead and making our homes and towns more inclusive for seniors over the years.
50. For example, we introduced the Enhancement for Active Seniors or EASE programme in 2012.
a. About 280,000 households have benefited from EASE, which made their homes more senior-friendly.
51. We have also been adding senior-friendly features, such as elderly fitness equipment, residents’ corners, and community gardens to our HDB estates, as part our neighbourhood upgrading programmes.
Expanding Housing-plus-Care Options for Seniors
52. More recently, together with MOH, we introduced Community Care Apartments or CCAs, a new housing typology that pairs senior-friendly housing with care services.
53. As Minister Desmond shared earlier, we will be launching a third CCA site later this year, in Bedok.
a. It will offer about 200 units, alongside other flat types in the development.
b. Residents will be able to conveniently access fitness stations, a playground, and community gardens.
i. These amenities encourage active ageing, and provide opportunities for residents of different ages to interact.
c. The site will also be located near Active Ageing Centres, community centres, markets, and hawker centres.
54. We are also partnering the private sector to co-create innovative assisted living models that can cater to seniors’ diverse preferences and lifestyles.
a. In collaboration with MOH, URA launched a pilot private assisted living site at Parry Avenue for sale in September last year.
b. The tender is closing later this month, and we look forward to receiving novel proposals.
Providing Options for Seniors to Monetise their Flats and Right-Size
55. For seniors who want to tap on their flat to supplement their retirement income, we offer a range of monetisation options.
a. Those who wish to continue living in their homes can take up the Lease Buyback Scheme or LBS, or rent out spare bedrooms.
b. For those who want to right-size, we offer 2-room Flexi flats, and the Silver Housing Bonus or SHB.
56. About 9,700 households have taken up the LBS, and more than 1,500 households have benefitted from the SHB.
57. We will continue reaching out to seniors, through local community events, public talks, and the media, to share about these housing monetisation options.
58. Together with MOH and other agencies, we will also continue to meet the housing and care needs of our seniors, and support them to stay healthy and engaged within the community.
a. We will share more details of our plans later this year, as part of Forward Singapore. We would like to thank all Members for all their suggestions. We will study them.
Partnering the Community to Create Vibrant Places
59. Finally, let me go beyond our homes and HDB towns to talk about how we are partnering local stakeholders to enliven and rejuvenate various precincts across Singapore.
60. One example is the public engagement exercise conducted by Kampong Gelam Alliance or KGA to shape the Place Plan for Kampong Gelam Historic Area.
61. Ms Cheryl Chan and Ms Nadia Samdin asked about the Kampong Gelam Historic Area. In total, we have engaged more than 1,600 stakeholders, such as local businesses and community groups, as well as members of public, through workshops and online surveys.
62. Many of them shared that it is important to continue supporting traditional trades, while attracting new ones to the precinct.
a. There is also strong support for initiatives to showcase the precinct’s rich history and culture, and recognition of the need for strong local partnership among stakeholders.
63. KGA and URA will study these findings carefully, and incorporate suggestions into the final Place Plan.
a. This will complement several other projects that have been piloted at Kampong Gelam, such as a recent citizen engagement project by NHB and URA to document the stories of heritage businesses.
64. These collective efforts will keep Kampong Gelam Historic Area thriving as a centre of community, culture, and enterprise.
65. Madam, allow me to now speak in Malay.
66. Dalam ucapannya, Menteri Desmond Lee telah berkongsi tentang langkah-langkah baru yang akan kami ambil untuk memelihara keperluan perumahan pelbagai lapisan warga Singapura, daripada golongan muda yang membeli flat rumah pertama mereka, serta mereka yang meniti usia senja.
Mengutamakan Keluarga Pemohon Flat Kali Pertama
67. Demi membantu pasangan membeli rumah pertama mereka, kami telah memperuntukkan sebahagian besar bekalan flat BTO untuk keluarga pemohon flat bersubsidi kali pertama –
a. Sekurang-kurangnya 95% daripada jumlah flat 4-bilik, dalam estet yang matang mahupun estet yang tidak matang.
68. Tahun lalu, kami telah menganjurkan pelbagai sesi perbincangan Melakar Hala Tuju Singapura mengenai perumahan, di mana terdapat persefahaman yang kuat bahawa keluarga dan pasangan muda yang membeli rumah pertama, harus diberikan lebih bantuan.
69. Jadi, kami akan melakukan lebih banyak lagi untuk membantu keluarga pemohon kali pertama yang mempunyai anak yang berusia 18 tahun dan ke bawah, serta pasangan muda yang berumah tangga yang berusia 40 tahun dan ke bawah.
70. Kami akan memperkenalkan kategori keutamaan baru, yang akan kami gelarkan Pemohon Flat Kali Pertama (Ibu Bapa dan Pasangan Suami Isteri).
a. Untuk layak bagi kategori ini, mereka juga seharusnya tidak pernah memiliki atau menjual sebarang hartanah kediaman mahupun berpeluang menempah flat dalam lima tahun yang lalu.
71. Kami akan membantu mereka untuk mendapatkan flat dengan lebih cepat menerusi tiga kaedah:
a. Pertama, mereka akan menerima satu lagi undi, melebihi dua undi yang diberikan kepada pemohon kali pertama, apabila mereka membuat permohonan untuk sebarang pilihan flat di mana-mana estet.
b. Kedua, kami akan memperluaskan Skim Keutamaan Keibubapaan agar semua Pemohon Kali Pertama Ibu Bapa dan Pasangan Suami Isteri turut layak. Kami akan meningkatkan bekalan flat 3-bilik dan flat lebih besar, yang kami peruntukkan bagi mereka, sebanyak 10-40 peratus daripada jumlah bekalan flat BTO dan sehingga 60 peratus daripada jumlah bekalan flat SBF.
i. Untuk mencerminkan penambahbaikan ini, kami akan mengubah gelaran skim ini sebagai Skim Keutamaan Keluarga dan Keibubapaan.
c. Ketiga, untuk flat BTO di estet tidak matang, kami akan memberikan keutamaan pertama kepada Pemohon Kali Pertama Ibu Bapa dan Pasangan Suami Isteri bagi peruntukan flat di bawah Skim Keutamaan Keluarga dan Keibubapaan, jika mereka memohon flat 4-bilik atau flat yang lebih kecil.
i. Ini bermakna mereka akan disenaraikan terdahulu daripada semua pemohon lain yang layak untuk skim ini, justeru mempunyai peluang yang lebih tinggi untuk dijemput memilih flat.
Menggandingkan Perumahan Sewa dengan Bantuan Sosial
72. Kami turut memelihara golongan keluarga yang mungkin belum bersedia untuk memiliki rumah sendiri kerana mereka perlu memantapkan keadaan kewangan mereka terdahulu.
73. Bagi keluarga berpendapatan rendah yang tidak mempunyai pilihan perumahan lain, flat sewa awam menawarkan tempat berteduh, ruang yang selamat, serta asas yang kukuh bagi mereka membina kestabilan dan kemandirian.
74. Untuk keluarga yang tinggal di flat sewa awam, kami bermatlamat untuk meningkatkan kehidupan mereka, agar lama-kelamaan, mereka dapat membeli flat mereka sendiri.
a. Ini dapat dicapai dengan memberikan bantuan holistik dari awal lagi, demi menangani pelbagai cabaran yang rumit dan berselirat yang dihadapi.
75. Skim Rumah Sewa Rangkaian Sokongan Masyarakat yang dilancarkan bersama Kementerian Pembangunan Sosial dan Keluarga (MSF) pada bulan November tahun lalu, menggandingkan perumahan sewa bersama bantuan holistik bagi keluarga yang mempunyai anak, sejak dari awal lagi.
a. Apabila sebuah keluarga memohon flat sewa daripada HDB dan memenuhi penilaian kelayakan, keluarga tersebut akan terus didaftarkan dalam Rangkaian Sokongan Masyarakat
b. Pegawai ComLink akan mendekati keluarga itu untuk memahami keadaan mereka dan menghubungkan mereka dengan bantuan yang relevan, sebelum mereka berpindah masuk ke flat sewa.
c. Setelah keluarga itu berpindah masuk ke flat sewa, seorang pegawai akan terus mendampingi keluarga itu, menanya khabar tentang keadaan mereka secara tetap, serta menyelaraskan bantuan daripada Pemerintah dan rakan kongsi masyarakat.
76. Dengan menyediakan mereka dengan bantuan yang bersepadu dari titik permulaan penetapan di flat sewa, kami yakin bahawa kami berupaya membantu lebih ramai keluarga untuk mengecapi kestabilan, kemandirian, dan akhirnya mobiliti sosial, termasuk pemilikan rumah.
77. Apabila mereka memantapkan kewangan mereka dengan pekerjaan dan pendapatan yang tetap, mereka boleh mengharapkan sokongan penuh kami untuk membeli rumah flat mereka sendiri.
Membaiki Skim Perumahan Sewa untuk Orang Bujang
78. Kami telah membuat penambahbaikan pada perumahan sewa di bawah Skim Berkongsi Flat untuk Orang Bujang, atau JSS.
79. Kami telah mula merintiskan model Skim Berkongsi Flat untuk Orang Bujang Kendalian Pengendali (JSS-OR) pada tahun 2021.
a. Bagi setiap tapak JSS-OR, HDB melantik sebuah agensi perkhidmatan sosial untuk menguruskan aturan perkongsian flat, memberi bantuan sosial kepada penduduk, serta menjadi orang tengah di antara penduduk tatkala perlu.
b. Buat masa ini, kami ada tiga tapak perumahan, yang boleh menampung sekitar 400 penyewa.
80. Memandangkan sambutan positif yang diterima, kami akan memperluas program perintis ini kepada tiga lagi tapak baharu.
a. Tiga tapak perumahan ini, yang bakal terletak di Bukit Panjang, Bidadari, dan Sengkang, boleh menampung jumlah sekitar 600 penyewa.
b. Kami menjangka dapat membuka permohonan bagi tiga lokasi ini pada lewat tahun ini.
66. To conclude, let me reaffirm our commitment to build an inclusive home for all Singaporeans –
a. Where home ownership remains affordable and accessible, including for low-income Singaporeans;
b. Where we integrate housing with social support to empower and uplift our lower-income households;
c. Where our homes and towns support the needs of our seniors;
d. And where we partner the community to create vibrant and endearing places.