Speech by MOS Faishal Ibrahim at the Committee of Supply Debate in Parliament

Mar 5, 2024

Building an Inclusive Home


1. Chairman, I thank Members for their views on supporting the housing needs of seniors, lower-income, and vulnerable households.

2. As Singapore matures and grows, we must do so inclusively, and take care of the diverse and changing needs of our population.

3. Today, I will focus on two key areas:

a. First, on uplifting our lower-income households and preserving social mobility; and

b. Second, on ensuring that Singapore remains a safe and comfortable home for our ageing population.

Supporting Public Rental Households

4. For lower-income households with no other housing options, public rental housing is a key social safety net.

Pairing Rental Housing with Social Support

5. We recognise that shelter alone is not enough. For many of these families, complex and overlapping challenges, such as illness or unemployment, often get in the way.

6. To address these challenges early, we pair rental housing with social support. Since November 2022, all families with children enter public rental housing through the ComLink Rental Scheme.

a. As of end January 2024, we have around 700 families on this scheme.

b. These families are paired with a ComLink+ family coach soon after entry into public rental housing.

7. Through early and sustained engagement with the families, ComLink+ family coaches can tailor their support to what each family needs, fostering stability, self-reliance, and ultimately social mobility.

Supporting Public Rental Families in Achieving Homeownership

8. When these rental households are ready, we support them in their transition towards home ownership.

a. Over the past decade, about 8,300 public rental households have progressed to homeownership. In 2023 alone, close to 950 households transitioned to homeownership, the highest in the last five years.

9. We have a range of measures in place to support both first-timer and second-timer rental households in making this transition.

10. Like other first-timer Singaporean families, first-timer families in public rental can tap on the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant to receive up to $80,000, to support them in their purchase of their first home from HDB.

11. For second-timer rental families, the Fresh Start Housing Scheme boosts their housing budget, and supports them in regaining and sustaining home ownership.

a. The Fresh Start Housing Scheme has been enhanced in the past two years to help more families. We increased the grant amount from $35,000 to $50,000, and gave Fresh Start families who may need a larger flat the option to purchase more affordable 3-room flats on shorter leases.

12. As of end January 2024, we have 101 families who have tapped on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme to book a new flat.

13. Besides the various housing schemes and grants available, HDB also has the Home ownership Support Team, or HST, to provide one-to-one guidance to help rental households navigate the flat buying process.

14. One family that has benefited from HST’s support and the Fresh Start Housing Scheme is Mdm Hazlinda Binte Tahar, and her three children.

a. Mdm Hazlinda has been living with her children in a 2-room public rental flat for a few years.

b. Keen to regain home ownership, Mdm Hazlinda reached out to HST for help in understanding her family’s housing budget and options.

c. In December 2023, with HST’s support and help from the Tenants’ Priority Scheme, Mdm Hazlinda successfully booked a 3-room Sale of Balance flat, with a shorter lease of 50 years. With her CPF savings and the Fresh Start Housing Grant, she was able to complete the flat purchase without a loan.

d. Mdm Hazlinda and her children are now looking forward to moving into their new flat, which will be ready by end 2024.

15. As of end 2023, HST has engaged close to 1,600 households. Of these, over 120 have moved into their new homes, and another close to 100 families have booked their flats and are waiting to collect their keys.

Supporting Singles in Public Rental

16. We have also been looking into ways to better support singles in public rental housing.

17. Today, under the Joint Singles Scheme, or JSS, singles must apply for a rental flat with a flatmate.

a. While most JSS tenants can find a flatmate and live together without issues, we recognise that this may be difficult for some.

18. This is why we have been exploring new typologies to improve the living experience of singles living in public rental housing.

19. Ms Carrie Tan, Mr Faisal Manap, and Mr Louis Chua have asked for updates on these new typologies.

20. The JSS Operator-Run model, or JSS-OR for short, is an ongoing pilot from Dec 2021.

a. Under JSS-OR, singles can apply for a rental flat without a flatmate. A social service agency appointed by HDB operates each site, including managing the flat sharing arrangements, and mediating between tenants when disagreements arise.

b. Last year, we expanded the pilot to three new sites in Bukit Panjang, Bidadari, and Sengkang. With these additional sites, HDB has assisted about 600 JSS-OR tenants as of end-2023, and can accommodate up to 1,000 tenants in total.

i. One tenant that has benefited from JSS-OR is Mr Lee, who is in his seventies. After the friend he was living with passed away, Mr Lee had to turn to public rental housing.

ii. At his age and with his medical needs, Mr Lee had trouble finding a flatmate to apply with under the JSS. With the help of a social worker, Mr Lee applied for the JSS-OR instead.

iii. After he was accepted to the Bukit Panjang site, the JSS-OR operator helped to pair him with a compatible flatmate and Mr Lee moved in in October 2023. Since then, Mr Lee and his flatmate have been getting along well.

c. As demonstrated through Mr Lee’s experience, I am happy to share that the pilot has been progressing well. Mr Lee and many other tenants have shared their appreciation for the on-site social service agency whom they can approach for assistance when needed.

d. The model has also been effective in mitigating co-tenant conflicts. Over 95% of such conflicts were resolved through the on-site operators’ early mediation and adjustment of flat sharing arrangements where necessary.

e. Some operators have also gone the extra mile. For example, by organising activities to encourage interaction and bonding amongst tenants.

f. We will further evaluate the pilot outcomes, before adjusting or expanding the model to meet the needs of the tenants and operators.

21. Another pilot typology is the Single Room Shared Facilities model, or SRSF. Through SRSF, we aim to give singles in public rental more privacy while making good use of limited space and preventing social isolation.

a. HDB will open applications for the SRSF pilot in 2Q 2024. Thereafter, we look forward to housing the first batch of successful applicants from around 3Q2024.

Adapting our Homes to be Senior-Friendly

22. Let me now explain our efforts to adapt our homes to be more senior-friendly. This will support our seniors who wish to age in place, in their communities.

23. Ms Cheryl Chan, Ms Tin Pei Ling, Mr Henry Kwek, and Ms Nadia Samdin have asked about Age Well SG, including on our efforts to support seniors with little or no family support. Let me share further details on our initiatives.

Supporting Seniors in Public Rental

24. First, under Age Well SG, we had announced the expansion of the wireless Alert Alarm System, or AAS, to all seniors aged 60 and above living in public rental housing.

25. The wireless AAS is an emergency button that is linked to nearby Active Ageing Centres and CareLine, a 24/7 hotline that provides response to callers in distress. The feedback from seniors in rental blocks that currently have the wireless AAS installed has been positive. Seniors found the alert system particularly helpful during emergencies.

a. Last month, I visited Mr Abdul Rahim and Mdm Ernowati, an elderly couple staying in a one-room rental flat in Jalan Besar.

b. Mr Abdul Rahim suffers from heart disease. In the past year, the couple has activated the wireless AAS three times to call for help after Mr Abdul Rahim experienced breathlessness and collapsed at home.

c. After activating the alert button, they were connected to CareLine staff who promptly alerted the SCDF to send him to the hospital.

d. During my visit, both Mr Abdul Rahim and Mdm Ernowati shared that they felt more assured with the wireless AAS in their home. Its round-the-clock emergency response service allowed them to receive medical help promptly, especially when Mr Abdul Rahim collapsed late at night.

e. Like Mr Abdul Rahim, about 800 seniors have received emergency medical assistance through the wireless AAS from end-2019 to mid-2023.

26. The wireless AAS expansion is estimated to benefit around 26,800 more seniors living in around 170 rental blocks. I am pleased to share that we will start to roll out the wireless AAS expansion from January 2025, and will cover three rental blocks per month.

a. We will start with rental blocks with a higher number of seniors, such as in Bukit Merah and Kallang-Whampoa.

b. We hope that, as a result of this effort, our seniors in public rental will feel safer when living independently at home.

Making Homes Safer for all Seniors

27. Further, under Age Well SG, we had also announced the expansion of senior-friendly features offered under the Enhancement for Active Seniors, or EASE programme, to enhance the safety and well-being of seniors in their homes.

a. The earlier announced features include rocker switches, home fire alarm devices, the widening of bathroom entrances, and handrails at main entrances with steps.

b. In addition to the above, we will be introducing additional features targeted at improving bathroom safety and fall prevention for seniors under EASE 2.0. These include lowered bathroom entrance kerbs, foldable U-profile grab bars, and bidet sprays. Bathrooms carry a significant fall risk for seniors, and we hope these features will help keep our seniors safe.

c. Mr Henry Kwek had asked when the EASE 2.0 roll-out would commence. I am pleased to share that households may apply for the new improvement items under the EASE programme from 1 April 2024. Households that have tapped on EASE in the past may apply again for the new items.

d. The EASE programme is heavily subsidised by the Government. Today, under EASE, a Singaporean household living in a 3-room flat only pays 5% of the costs of the upgrades, with the rest covered by the Government. The new features under EASE 2.0 will adopt this same subsidy structure.

e. A 3-room flat owner tapping on the full EASE programme, which includes a wheelchair lifter and the new EASE 2.0 features, can expect to pay only around $570, with the remaining cost of around $10,000 borne by the Government. Fuller details on the costs will be provided on HDB InfoWEB from 1 April this year.

28. Mr Ong Hua Han had asked if we would provide financial support to Persons with Disabilities, or PwDs, to improve the accessibility of their HDB flats. As with EASE, non-elderly families with extenuating circumstances, such as households with PwDs, can apply for the new EASE 2.0 features on a case-by-case basis.

29. With these new features under the EASE programme, we hope to assure our seniors and your loved ones that your homes will continue to be enhanced to meet your changing needs.

Malay Segment

30. Sir, allow me to now speak in Malay.

31. Dalam ucapan beliau, Menteri Desmond Lee berkongsi tentang langkah-langkah baru yang akan kami ambil untuk menangani keperluan perumahan pasangan dan keluarga muda.

Peningkatan kepada Skim Bayaran Pendahuluan Berperingkat

32. Dalam interaksi kami dengan pasangan-pasangan muda, kami telah mendengar bahawa ramai yang sangat berminat untuk menempah flat dan menetap dengan lebih awal.

33. Ini termasuk mereka yang masih belajar sepenuh masa, menjalani Perkhidmatan Negara atau mereka yang baru tamat pengajian atau Perkhidmatan Negara pada tahun lalu.

a. Pasangan sedemikian tidak layak untuk menerima Geran Perumahan CPF Dipertingkat, atau EHG, yang memerlukan 12 bulan pekerjaan yang berterusan.

34. Kami ingin terus menyokong kumpulan pasangan muda ini yang kini layak untuk penilaian pendapatan tertunda dan Skim Pendahuluan Berperingkat, atau SDS. Mulai Jun 2024, kami akan mempertingkatkan SDS untuk mengurangkan lagi bayaran pendahuluan awal kepada 2.5% daripada harga flat, dengan baki yang dibayar semasa pengambilan kunci.

35. Kami berharap ini akan dapat membantu lebih ramai pasangan muda untuk mempercepatkan rancangan perkahwinan dan keibubapaan mereka.

Menyokong Pasangan Yang Menanti Penyiapan Flat

36. Kumpulan kedua pasangan yang telah kami dengar melalui pendekatan kami adalah mereka yang telah menempah flat BTO mereka, tetapi memerlukan tempat tinggal sementara menanti penyiapan flat baru mereka.

37. Hari ini, kami menyediakan perumahan sementara yang bersubsidi untuk keluarga-keluarga ini yang sedang menunggu flat siap dibina, di bawah Skim Perumahan Sementara Keibubapaan, atau PPHS.

a. Untuk memenuhi permintaan tinggi untuk PPHS, kami akan menggandakan bekalan PPHS kepada 4,000 unit menjelang 2025.

38. Sementara itu, untuk menyokong lebih ramai keluarga yang layak untuk PPHS, kami akan memperkenalkan Baucar PPHS (Pasaran Terbuka) untuk membantu mereka yang menyewa flat HDB atau bilik tidur di pasaran terbuka.

a. Baucar akan disediakan selama setahun, mulai Julai 2024.

b. Setiap keluarga yang layak akan menerima $300 sebulan, dan bayaran adalah berdasarkan bayaran balik.

39. Baucar PPHS ini akan menyediakan sedikit bantuan kewangan untuk keluarga muda yang menyewa sementara menunggu flat BTO mereka.

Menyokong Isi Rumah Sewa Awam

40. Untuk keluarga berpendapatan rendah yang belum bersedia untuk memiliki rumah dan tidak mempunyai pilihan perumahan lain, kami menyediakan perumahan sewa awam untuk memastikan mereka mempunyai rumah yang selamat dan stabil.

41. Sepanjang dekad yang lalu, kira-kira 8,300 isi rumah sewa awam telah mencapai pemilikan rumah. Daripada jumlah ini, hampir 950 telah berbuat demikian pada tahun 2023, yang tertinggi dalam tempoh lima tahun yang lalu.

42. Kami berharap lebih banyak isi rumah sewa awam akan beralih kepada pemilikan rumah pada tahun yang akan datang. Kami menggalakkan isi rumah ini untuk menghubungi HDB jika mereka memerlukan sebarang bantuan dalam perjalanan pemilikan rumah mereka.

Kawasan Kejiranan dan Rumah Mesra Warga Emas

43. Sedang penduduk kita menua, salah satu keutamaan kami adalah memastikan warga emas boleh terus tinggal dengan selamat di rumah mereka dan menua dengan sihat dalam masyarakat. Kami akan berbuat demikian melalui inisiatif-inisiatif utama di bawah Menua Sihat SG, atau Age Well SG.

44. Pertama, kami akan memperluaskan peruntukan Sistem Amaran Kecemasan Tanpa Wayar atau AAS kepada semua warga emas yang berusia 60 tahun ke atas yang tinggal di flat sewa awam.

a. AAS tanpa wayar ini dihubungkan ke Pusat Penuaan Aktif yang berdekatan, dan juga CareLine, talian bantuan 24 jam yang memberi respon kepada pemanggil dalam keadaan kecemasan.

45. Kami akan mula melaksanakan peluasan AAS tanpa wayar mulai Januari 2025. Peluasan penyediaan AAS ini dijangka memberi manfaat kepada tambahan sekitar 26,800 warga emas yang tinggal di 170 blok sewa.

46. Seterusnya, kami akan memperluaskan rangkaian ciri-ciri mesra warga emas yang ditawarkan di bawah program Peningkatan Bagi Warga Emas Aktif, atau EASE, untuk semua warga emas.

a. Mulai 1 April 2024, warga emas boleh memilih bebendul jalan masuk tandas yang direndahkan, palang pegangan lipat , dan penyembur bidet di bawah EASE 2.0. Ini adalah tambahan kepada ciri-ciri yang diumumkan sebelum ini seperti pintu masuk tandas yang diluaskan dan kerusi pancuran lipat.

b. Kos ciri-ciri ini akan diberi subsidi yang besar oleh Pemerintah, pada kadar yang sama seperti sekarang.

c. Selain itu, saya berbesar hati ingin berkongsi bahawa isi rumah yang telah menggunakan EASE sebelum ini boleh memohon semula untuk kelengkapan baru ini.

47. Akhir sekali, kami akan memberi nafas baru kepada kawasan kejiranan untuk menjadi lebih mesra warga emas melalui fasa kelima NRP yang akan datang. Ini akan memanfaatkan lebih daripada 100,000 flat tambahan, yang merupakan flat lebih tua yang dibina sehingga 1999. Penduduk boleh mengharapkan taman terapeutik dengan kotak penanam mesra kerusi roda dan laluan bebas halangan yang menghubungkan kemudahan-kemudahan yang mengutamakan warga emas.

48. Dengan peluasan AAS tanpa wayar untuk flat sewa awam serta pelancaran EASE 2.0 dan NRP fasa kelima, kami berharap agar warga emas akan berasa lebih selamat semasa tinggal di rumah dan menua dalam masyarakat.


49. To conclude, let me reaffirm our commitment to building an inclusive home for all Singaporeans. We will continue to build:

a. A home that responds to the diverse and evolving needs of our population;

b. A home that integrates housing with social support to empower and uplift our lower-income households; and

c. A home that allows our seniors to age gracefully and safely within the community, in our neighbourhoods and homes.