Speech by MOS Faishal Ibrahim at the Committee of Supply Debate on 8 March 2022

Mar 8, 2022


1.    Mdm Chair, the fight against COVID-19 has been long and hard. But the past two years have also shown us that Singaporeans share common aspirations for a caring and inclusive society, and want to contribute to making Singapore a better home for all.

2.    Today, I will share more about our efforts to support different groups of citizens, especially those who may require more assistance, and create vibrant places in partnership with the community.

Supporting Public Rental Households

3.    First, on those staying in public rental.

Public Rental is a Home that Comes with Social Support

4.    Some Singaporeans face more challenges than others in life. For those who are lower-income or more vulnerable, providing highly subsidised rental housing is an important first step.

a.    With shelter, they have a safe space to come home to, a stable foundation upon which they can regroup and stabilise.

5.    Mr Louis Ng spoke about giving more assurance to single unwed parents. We understand the anxiety that families may face when their housing arrangements are uncertain.

a.    Generally, single unwed parents can receive the outcome of their rental flat applications within three weeks of submitting all required information, although more time may be required for complex cases.

b.    All rental flat applicants may contact HDB at any point for updates on their applications.

c.    HDB will also prioritise flat allocations for those with urgent housing needs as far as possible.

6.    Beyond housing, those in public rental may also be grappling with other challenges – health issues, family conflict, employment troubles, and more. So public rental housing is not just a shelter; it is a home that comes with social support, to help our rental tenants bounce back stronger.

7.    For example, under Community Link, or ComLink, HDB and many other agencies work together to support families with children living in public rental housing.

a.    ComLink is a flagship project led by MSF, and it is being scaled up nationwide to cover some 14,000 families over the next few years.

b.    ComLink proactively reaches out to families to understand their unique challenges and aspirations, provides close case support through befriending and action planning, and works with community partners and volunteers to offer customised programmes and services that meet families’ needs.

c.    Through ComLink, we hope to empower families to regain stability, become self-reliant, and eventually achieve social mobility.

8.    On Mr Chong Kee Hiong’s concerns regarding larger families in public rental flats, families may request for a 2-room flat if there are three or more persons. Multi-generation families that can form two family units may also apply for two flats, and HDB will try to ensure that both flats are located near each other.

a.    We also work closely with MSF and Family Service Centres at selected ComLink sites to offer 3-room rental flats, coupled with social support, to larger families with children.

b.    With a limited supply of 3-room flats, however, we are only able to offer them to a small number of families on a case-by-case basis.  

Helping Rental Families Progress to Home Ownership

9.    Like Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Ms Nadia Samdin, we hope to help rental tenants achieve their aspirations to own their homes.

10.    HDB has a dedicated team of officers, the Home ownership Support Team, who will guide rental tenants on their journey towards home ownership.

a.    Ms Nadia Samdin asked how these families would be identified. The Home ownership Support Team estimates the housing budget of households based on the income and CPF information that they last shared with HDB.

b.    These officers provide one-to-one guidance – they help families make sense of available housing schemes and grants, provide practical tips and advice, and walk families through the processes of buying a flat.

c.    Over the past two years, the team has successfully helped about 110 households own their own homes and another 230 should be ready to apply for a flat in the next one to two years.

11.    Families can also benefit from generous housing grants when they purchase a flat.

a.    For example, first-timers can tap on the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant and receive up to $80,000, on top of already subsidised flat prices if they purchase a new flat. Second-timers can tap on the $15,000 Step-Up CPF Housing Grant.

b.    We are also enhancing the Fresh Start Housing Scheme this year, as Minister Desmond Lee shared, to help second-timer families with children in public rental to own a home again.

c.    These grants ensure that public housing remains affordable and accessible, especially for lower-income families.

12.    Owning a home is an achievable goal – between 2019 and 2021, over 2,200 rental households have moved into flats of their own. Another 2,200 or so households have also booked a flat, and are waiting for their new homes to be ready.

a.    I encourage all rental families to aspire and work towards home ownership.

b.    The Government and community will support and complement your efforts, as you work towards better lives for yourself and your loved ones.

Update on the Joint Singles Scheme Operator-Run (JSS-OR) Model

13.    For low-income singles under the Joint Singles Scheme, or the JSS, Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Mr Chong Kee Hiong spoke about the unique challenges they face when it comes to finding or getting along with their flatmates. We understand these concerns, and are continually exploring ways to address them.

14.    Last year, I shared that HDB will pilot the JSS Operator-Run model. Under this model, singles can apply for public rental without finding a flatmate first, and an appointed social service agency will manage the flats and flat-sharing arrangements.

15.    I am happy to update that the pilot has started and is progressing well. We currently have two sites, in Bedok North and Buangkok Crescent, which are managed by Good News Community Services.

a.    HDB started accepting applications last December. So far, about 90 tenants have confirmed their tenancy, and some have already moved in with the flatmates whom they were matched with.

b.    I visited the site at Bedok North recently, and was encouraged to see that tenants were generally able to get along.

c.    I also spoke with the operator, who plays a critical role in this model. They help tenants adjust to living together, address other challenges that tenants might face, and foster a living environment that is comfortable and supportive.

16.    Plans are underway for a third site at Bukit Batok, and we will continue to monitor the effectiveness of this model, to see how it can be improved to better meet the needs of singles.

Supporting Seniors

17.    Next, on supporting our rapidly ageing population. Mr Yip Hon Weng, Mr Henry Kwek Hian Chuan, Mr Xie Yao Quan and Ms Nadia Samdin asked about our efforts to help seniors age in place, including our plans to provide assisted living options. As Mr Henry Kwek and Mr Yip Hon Weng mentioned, this is something that the PAP Seniors Group also cares about.

a.    I thank Members for their strong interest and support on this.

Senior-Friendly Homes and Public Spaces

18.    We understand that many seniors prefer to age in environments they are familiar with, surrounded by family and neighbours they can depend on, so we have taken extra effort to provide senior-friendly homes and estates.

19.    Within homes, seniors can tap on HDB’s Enhancement for Active Seniors programme, or EASE, to install senior-friendly features for mobility and comfort.

a.    These features include grab bars, mobility ramps for wheelchair users and slip-resistant treatment to toilet floor tiles.

b.    There has been strong demand, and over 250,000 households have benefited from EASE so far.

c.    Together with other agencies, we will continue to refine the enhancements offered under EASE, to help seniors age independently in their own homes.

20.    At the town level, our physical infrastructure also offers an inclusive and user-friendly living environment for all ages.

a.    We have features like gentle-sloping ramps for barrier-free accessibility, and pictograms in directional signages to aid wayfinding.

b.    Earlier this year, we also formed a pilot community partnership in Boon Lay, called “Our Accessible City @ Boon Lay Neighbourhood”. Together with the local community, including seniors and persons with disabilities, we will study how to address accessibility gaps in the HDB heartlands. We also intend to form a similar partnership in Nee Soon Central later on.

21.    Beyond infrastructural features, we work with agencies to provide amenities and services in HDB towns, so that seniors can meet their needs easily.

a.    For example, at the integrated developments at Kampung Admiralty and Yew Tee, senior-friendly housing is co-located conveniently with healthcare, commercial and community facilities under one roof.

b.    In each HDB estate, HDB also sets aside spaces for social service agencies to offer services to residents onsite. Depending on residents’ demographic profile and needs, these services could include home and day care services or befriending services, which provide support for seniors to age in place.

Expanding Assisted Living Options

22.    We want to offer a spectrum of housing options to meet the aspirations of seniors to age autonomously and gracefully in place. In particular, we want to meet the aspirations of our senior population for assisted living housing typologies that integrate housing and care services together.

23.    Hence, MND, HDB and MOH worked together to develop the Community Care Apartments, or CCA.

a.    The CCA is a new public housing typology. Affordably priced, it combines senior-friendly housing with care services that can be customised according to seniors’ needs.

b.    It also offers communal spaces and social programming for seniors to interact and stay engaged with the community.

24.    The first pilot we launched last year in Bukit Batok was very well-received, with an application rate of 4.2 applicants per unit. So far, over 90% of the units offered have been booked.

25.    To meet the demand for assisted living, we will launch a second CCA pilot this year in Queenstown.

a.    About 200 CCA units will be offered, and the project will also include other flat types. There will also be common facilities such as roof gardens, fitness stations and community living rooms, to promote social interactions between all residents.  

b.    This second site is situated within the Health District @ Queenstown, where HDB, NUS, healthcare partners like NUHS and local grassroots organizations are piloting new strategies to create a built environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle and active and healthy ageing.

c.    Queenstown also has the Alexandra Hospital, which will allow medical and healthcare services to be seamlessly incorporated into the care model for residents.

d.    HDB will share more specific site details later this year.

26.    We will also launch a site at Parry Avenue for sale by public tender later this year, for a private assisted living facility, to give seniors even more assisted living options.

a.    The facility may accommodate about 300 to 400 seniors.

b.    And I invite prospective tenderers to propose innovative assisted living models to help our seniors age gracefully within the community. We look forward to partnering the private sector to co-create new assisted living housing products that will further enhance the quality of life for our ageing population.

Supporting Diverse Needs

27.    Beyond seniors, other segments of our population also have diverse needs and aspirations.

28.    For example, Mr Louis Ng asked about catering more lactation rooms in buildings, to better support working mothers.

a.    The Code on Accessibility, which buildings have to meet by default, includes a requirement to provide lactation rooms.  

b.    Only certain types of buildings like offices are currently not required to provide lactation rooms if they are below a certain size, in consideration of practical space limitations.

c.    Nonetheless, the Government encourages building owners and occupants to go beyond the requirements of the Code, to cater to the need of building users. Building owners can tap on co-funding under BCA’s Accessibility Fund, to undertake voluntary upgrading to provide accessibility and inclusive features like lactation rooms.

Partnering the Community to Create Vibrant Places

29.    Finally, on working with community stakeholders to rejuvenate heritage precincts in Singapore, which Ms Nadia Samdin asked about.

a.    Our heritage precincts were impacted by COVID-19. For instance, businesses suffered when footfall fell, due to border closures and other Safe Management Measures.

30.    To rejuvenate these heritage precincts, the Government takes a participatory approach on the ground – to actively engage and respond to local communities, and find a more resilient and sustainable way forward.

a.    This includes working with stakeholders to mitigate gentrification risks, and allow older tenants and newer stallholders to exist alongside each other in a seamless and complementary way.

31.    In Kampong Gelam specifically, local businesses, institutions, landlords and residents had come together to form the Kampong Gelam Alliance, or KGA, to collectively look into various long-term issues concerning the area.

a.    To encourage greater interest in the rich heritage that Kampong Gelam offers, the alliance recently worked with URA, LTA, and students from LASALLE College of the Arts to put up posters detailing Kampong Gelam’s storied history around Bugis MRT Station.

b.    I have taken on the role as advisor to this alliance, and will work closely with existing and new community stakeholders to support their efforts for the area.

c.    Together, we hope to preserve the heritage that makes Kampong Gelam distinctive, and at the same time, refresh it so that it remains relevant for future generations.

d.    I also invite Singaporeans to share your visions for Kampong Gelam when KGA engages the community and public later this year. Your ideas will guide our efforts to keep Kampong Gelam alive as a centre of community, culture, heritage and enterprise.

32.    Through partnership platforms like the pilot Business Improvement District programme, URA also works closely with local stakeholders to transform other neighbourhoods into vibrant and attractive destinations.

a.    They are making good progress, and we will continue to collaborate with private sector and community partners to enliven neighbourhoods across Singapore.

Malay Segment

33.    Mdm Chair, in Malay, please.

34.    Minggu lalu, Encik Faisal Manap telah bercakap tentang keluarga Melayu yang tinggal di flat-flat sewa HDB.

35.    Kita semua fahami bahawa keluarga yang tinggal di flat sewa mempunyai aspirasi yang sama seperti keluarga-keluarga yang lain. Mereka inginkan tempat tinggal, di mana mereka dapat membina masa depan yang cerah untuk keluarga tersayang. Namun dalam masa yang sama, sebahagian daripada mereka mungkin juga menghadapi pelbagai cabaran, seperti kesihatan, konflik keluarga dan pekerjaan.

36.    Oleh itu, selain daripada tempat berteduh, pihak pemerintah juga berikan sokongan sosial kepada mereka.

a.    Kami mengambil langkah-langkah yang menyeluruh dan bersepadu untuk menaikkan keupayaan keluarga flat-flat sewa.

b.    Menerusi inisiatif-inisiatif seperti ComLink dan Projek Dian, HDB bekerja rapat dengan agensi-agensi sosial dan badan-badan masyarakat, untuk meneliti keperluan keluarga-keluarga ini, dan berikan bimbingan supaya mereka dapat berdikari.

37.    Apabila mereka lebih bersedia untuk memiliki rumah mereka sendiri, mereka juga akan menerima bantuan yang diperlukan.

a.    Kami sedang menambahkan bekalan perumahan HDB untuk menawarkan lebih banyak pilihan perumahan mampu milik bagi rakyat Singapura, termasuk masyarakat Melayu.

b.    Pada masa ini, mereka boleh mendapatkan bimbingan peribadi daripada Unit Bimbingan Pemilikan Rumah HDB iaitu HST, yang akan menasihati mereka tentang pemilihan flat, dan membimbing mereka melalui proses pembelian flat.

c.    Mereka juga boleh meraih manfaat daripada subsidi dan geran perumahan yang banyak, seperti Geran Perumahan CPF dan Geran Perumahan Step-Up HDB.

d.    Di antara tahun 2017 dan 2021, lebih daripada 1,800 isi rumah Melayu telah berpindah dari flat sewa ke flat yang dimiliki sendiri. Ini adalah peningkatan lebih dari seganda, dari tempoh 5 tahun sebelumnya.

38.    Tahun ini, kami akan menyediakan lebih bantuan. Seperti yang dinyatakan oleh Menteri Desmond Lee tadi, kami akan mempertingkatkan Skim Perumahan Permulaan Baru, iaitu bagi pemilik rumah kali kedua yang tinggal di flat sewa, dan mempunyai anak kecil.

a.    Kami akan menaikkan jumlah geran perumahan di bawah skim ini, daripada $35,000 kepada $50,000.

b.    Kami juga akan membuka skim ini kepada pembelian flat 3-bilik dengan tempoh pajakan yang lebih pendek.

c.    Kami berharap peningkatan-peningkatan ini akan memudahkan penghuni flat sewa untuk memiliki kediaman yang selesa bagi keluarga tersayang.

d.    Jika anda ingin mengetahui lebih lanjut tentang pemilikan rumah, HDB sedia membantu.

39.    Izinkan saya berkongsi sedikit sebanyak tentang rancangan kami untuk Kampong Gelam.

a.    Kampong Gelam merupakan kawasan yang penting bagi masyarakat Melayu/Islam dan Singapura amnya. Oleh itu, kami ingin bekerjasama dengan rakyat setempat, untuk memastikan kawasan ini terus meriah, dan budaya dan warisannya diperkekalkan.

b.    Baru-baru ini, saya mengambil peranan sebagai penasihat kepada Perikatan Kampong Gelam iaitu KGA, yang menyatukan para peniaga, penduduk dan institusi setempat yang berkepentingan. Kami akan bekerjasama untuk menangani isu-isu tempatan, dan memastikan Kampong Gelam terus menjadi tempat yang dekat di hati.

c.    Saya juga ingin mengajak rakyat Singapura untuk berkongsi idea-idea anda dengan kami semasa sesi penglibatan masyarakat yang akan dianjurkan oleh KGA akhir tahun ini.


40.    Mdm Chair, to conclude, let me reassure everyone that we are committed to supporting vulnerable citizens, meeting the diverse needs of all Singaporeans, and creating vibrant and endearing spaces.

a.    And we will do so in close partnership with citizens and the community, to make sure that Singapore continues to be a place that all of us can truly call home.