Speech by MOS Faishal for Parliamentary Motion on Affordable and Accessible Public Housing and Public Housing Policies

Feb 7, 2023

A. Our Commitment to Affordable and Accessible Public Housing (in Malay)

1. Mr Speaker, I would like to start my speech by making a few points in Malay.

2. Semenjak awal zaman pembangunan negara, pemilikan rumah merupakan tunjang utama dasar perumahan awam kita, dan ia juga merupakan sebuah tiang utama kompak sosial Singapura.

a. Sebagai negara yang muda, kami mahu membantu semua rakyat Singapura memiliki rumah sendiri, agar mereka mempunyai kestabilan untuk membina keluarga dan membesarkan anak-anak mereka, mempunyai jati diri sebagai warga Singapura, serta mempunyai kepentingan dalam kemajuan negara kita.

3. Kami telah memenuhi komitmen ini.

a. Kita mempunyai kadar pemilikan rumah antara yang tertinggi di dunia, pada kadar hampir 90 peratus.

b. Ramai warganegara Singapura juga telah meraih manfaat daripada peningkatan dalam nilai flat HDB mereka, dan telah berpindah ke rumah baharu yang lebih baik, seiring dengan perubahan tahap kehidupan mereka.

4. Komitmen Pemerintah untuk membantu warga Singapura memiliki rumah mereka sendiri, kekal teguh. Walaupun gangguan akibat COVID-19 berlaku, HDB sedang menebus kembali kelengahan pengendalian program pembinaannya dengan pesat. Kami akan melancarkan sehingga 100,000 flat antara tahun 2021 dan 2025, jika perlu. Pemerintah juga telah mengekalkan harga BTO hampir mendatar, di tengah-tengah kenaikan kos pembinaan, demi memastikan flat HDB terus mampu dimiliki.

5. Hampir kesemua pembeli flat bersubsidi kali pertama berjaya mendapatkan flat dalam 3 percubaan, jika mereka membuat permohonan untuk mendapatkan flat BTO di estet-estet tidak matang. Secara keseluruhan, hampir 9 dalam 10 pembeli BTO kali pertama di estet-estet tidak matang boleh membiayai bayaran bulanan pinjaman perumahan HDB mereka sepenuhnya menggunakan CPF, tanpa sebarang wang tunai.

6. Fakta-fakta ini jelas. Rumah flat HDB kekal mampu milik dan dapat diperoleh.

7. Memandang ke hadapan, seperti mana yang pernah kami lakukan, kami akan terus memastikan bahawa perumahan awam dapat diperoleh dan mampu dimiliki warganegara Singapura. Kami akan turut memelihara keperluan perumahan golongan yang mudah terjejas serta keluarga-keluarga yang berpendapatan rendah.

8. Madam, I will continue my speech in English, please.

B. Taking care of housing needs of lower-income families

9. As Minister Desmond Lee said in his speech, one of the Government’s key objectives is to create an inclusive society, through public housing.

10. This is why our housing grants are tiered to provide more support for lower-income
families, on top of the significant subsidies provided for BTO flats.

a. As a result, about 85% of our low-income households own their homes. This is something not commonly seen in other countries.

11. Take, for example, a lower-income family with household income of $2,500, which is below the 2nd decile of resident household income.

a. They can enjoy $70,000 in grants.

b. If they were to buy a 3-room flat in Vanda Breeze @ Yishun in the November 2022 BTO exercise, where the typical selling price was $200,000, the housing grant would reduce the selling price to $130,000, or about 4.3 times of their annual income.

c. This family would only need to use about 16% of their household income for their monthly mortgage instalments. This means they can service their mortgage entirely using their monthly CPF contributions, without any cash outlay.

12. Or if we look at a household with combined income of $5,000, which is below the 3rd decile of resident household income, they can receive $45,000 in housing grants.

a. Based on a typical selling price of $350,000 for a 4-room flat in West Glades @ Bukit Batok in the November 2022 BTO exercise, the housing grant can reduce the selling price to $305,000.

b. This family would only need to use about 21% of their household income to pay for their monthly mortgage instalments.

c. Again, they can service their mortgages entirely from their monthly CPF contributions, with no cash outlay.

13. As these examples show, HDB flats continue to remain affordable, even for families on the lower end of the income range.

14. Beyond delivering on our commitment to affordable and accessible public housing, we have been going all out to take care of those who are more vulnerable.

15. We recognise that some families may not be ready for home ownership yet, as they need to build up their finances. To ensure that these families and their children have a stable home as they work on their life challenges, we provide highly subsidised public rental housing, as a social safety net.

16. We have been making improvements to our rental flats over the years, to provide a better living environment for our tenants, and we will continue to do more.

a. For example, we improved the design so newer rental blocks have better lighting and ventilation.

b. And going forward, we will be building rental blocks in the same projects as sold blocks, and where possible, in the same block.

c. Doing so also helps to ensure that our HDB estates remain inclusive.

17. For low-income singles in public rental who are under the Joint Singles Scheme, or JSS, we know that some of them have difficulties finding a flatmate or getting along with

a. A few years back, we started building partitioned 1-room flats for the JSS, to provide more privacy.

b. More recently, we started piloting an operator-run model for the JSS, where we appoint an operator to help manage the flat-sharing arrangements, and individuals can apply without having to find a flatmate first.

c. These efforts have been well-received so far.

18. For our rental tenants, our approach goes beyond providing a rental flat for shelter.

a. We want to ensure that their children have a stable home environment to grow up in.

b. Ultimately, our goal is to help these families achieve stability, self-reliance and eventually, social mobility.

19. This is why we have gone further upstream, to pair rental housing with ComLink, to provide holistic social support for families entering rental housing.

a. With the ComLink Rental Scheme we launched in November 2022, eligible families with young children will be automatically enrolled in ComLink when they apply to HDB for a public rental flat, even before they move in.

b. ComLink officers will work with the families to understand their needs and aspirations, then develop customised goals and an action plan.

c. Depending on their needs, we bring in the relevant support schemes and programmes across the various agencies.

i. For example, ComCare financial assistance, employment support for the parents, and KidSTART for the children.

20. For rental families who have achieved stability and have potential for home ownership, we set up the Home ownership Support Team, or HST, in HDB, to journey with them through their flat-buying process.

a. The HST provides one-to-one guidance to help families work out their budget, make sense of the housing grants and schemes available, all the way until they move into their new flats.

b. I worked with them closely and we engaged rental tenants as well as those who have moved into their new flats.

c. Since it was set up in end-2019, the HST has reached out to about 1,400 rental households.

21. I have met some families who have benefited from HST’s guidance, and they are always very appreciative of the effort that our HST officers put in to help them.

a. For example, I met a young couple last September, Nizam and Nabilah who had just moved into their new home.

b. Before that, they had lived in a public rental flat for some years, with their 3 young children.

c. From the outset, they were determined to work towards home ownership, to provide a better home environment for their children. Knowing that steady income with CPF contribution is crucial, both of them persevered in their jobs.

d. Nabilah shared with me that their journey was not without challenges, but they were determined, and worked hard to save up for their own flat.

e. As they were not sure about their housing budget, they sought help from the HST.

f. The HST worked with the family to plan their housing budget and options, and they also benefited from an Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of $60,000.

g. Their determination and hard work paid off – they are now the proud owners of a beautiful 4-room flat in Punggol. In fact, I visited them at their home.

22. Some of our rental families are those who had to move into public rental housing after losing their flat due to financial difficulties. To help these second-timer families with children own a home again, we introduced the Fresh Start Housing Scheme.

a. Under Fresh Start, they can buy a shorter-lease 2-room Flexi flat with a grant, and receive support from a social service agency to help them stay on track in their journey towards home ownership. This was also shared by MP Nadia earlier.

b. We have just enhanced the scheme last year, by increasing the grant amount from $35,000 to $50,000. Starting from the February 2023 BTO exercise, Fresh Start families can also buy a 3-room flat on a shorter lease.23. One of our Fresh Start families is Mdm Zaidah and her son.

a. Mdm Zaidah is the sole breadwinner of her family, and has worked as a security officer, massage therapist, and several other jobs, while saving up to buy a home.

b. After eight years in public rental, she bought a Fresh Start flat three years ago.

c. When she was interviewed recently, Mdm Zaidah said, “My son and I are so happy to have our very own home.” Simple words, but there is so much behind them. She has brought up three children, gone through divorce, and battled cancer. Now she has her own flat, a home for life, paid for in full with her CPF savings.

d. In guiding her towards home ownership, we have been very inspired by her, and we are so happy for her too.

24. I was very happy to read Mdm Zaidah’s interview. It touched me. In fact, I cried. Her happiness resonated with me as that was how my family, particularly my siblings and I, felt in 1979 when we moved from a rental flat in Marine Terrace to a 3-room flat in Bedok South. I sat down, reflecting and appreciating what we had in Singapore. We must do more to help fellow Singaporeans, especially those who live in rental flats, to have a home of their own.

25. Over the past decade, 7,800 rental households have benefited from HDB’s various housing schemes and grants, and moved into their own homes.

a. Another 2,300 rental households have booked a sold flat and are waiting to collect their keys.

b. We are very encouraged by this, as it shows that home ownership is achievable for our rental families, with hard work and commitment on their part, coupled with strong support from the Government and the community.

C. Support for diverse housing needs

26. As part of building an inclusive society, we have also adjusted our policies to take care of those who may be facing housing challenges due to unexpected life events.

a. Especially when children are involved, we want to ensure that they can have a stable home to grow up in.

27. For those going through divorce, we understand that the housing transition is a stressful period.

a. For divorced parents with children, I would like to assure them that they can qualify for the same housing schemes and grants as other families.

i. They can buy a subsidised flat from HDB or a resale flat on the open market, and qualify for housing grants and priority schemes for families, such as the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme and the Third Child Priority Scheme, if they meet the prevailing eligibility conditions.

b. To further improve their chances of getting a subsidised flat, 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.

c. For those who are undergoing divorce and want to better understand their post-divorce housing options, they can approach HDB for housing counselling.

28. For single unwed parents, if they are in stable employment and can afford to buy a flat, we will allow them to buy up to a 3-room new flat in a non-mature estate, or any resale flat.

a. If they cannot afford to buy a flat and need a place to stay, we will consider them for public rental if it is in their child’s best interest, in consultation with social workers if necessary.

D. Taking care of our seniors

29. Some Members in this House claimed that seniors will have a lot to worry, when their
leases diminish.

30. We take care of our seniors, and we have been doing so all along. For seniors who want to monetise their flats to support their retirement needs, we have various options available, such as the Lease Buyback Scheme and the Silver Housing Bonus.

31. In addition, we have planned ahead and introduced measures to help seniors age in place independently and confidently.

a. For example, we introduced the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) Programme in 2012, more than 10 years ago.

b. So far, about 280,000 households have benefited from HDB’s Home Improvement Programme (HIP) and EASE Programme, to make their homes more senior-friendly.

c. As part of our neighbourhood upgrading programmes, we have also been adding senior-friendly features to our HDB estates.

d. Most recently, we introduced the Community Care Apartments (CCAs), a new type of HDB flats that pairs senior-friendly housing with care services which can be personalised to seniors’ needs as they age.

e. We have launched two CCA pilot projects so far and public response has been positive. We are studying the feedback received as we develop our longer term plans. The CCAs, along with 2-room Flexi flats on shorter leases, also provide right-sizing options for seniors, who wish to right-size to a smaller flat after their children move out.

f. Mr Gerald Giam would be glad to know that we have been significantly ramping up the supply of 2-room Flexi flats from about 1,500 flats launched in 2013 to around 4,000 such flats launched every year in 2014.

32. We will continue taking care of our seniors’ housing needs, as we have always done.

E. Closing

33. To sum up, the Government has delivered on its commitment to affordable and accessible public housing for all Singaporeans.

34. To ensure that no one falls through the cracks, we have also gone all out to help those who are more vulnerable, and partner them as they work towards a brighter future for themselves and their children.

35. We will continue striving to do better, as we work with Singaporeans to build an endearing, inclusive home for us and our future generations.