Speech by SPS Sun Xueling at the Committee of Supply Debate 2019: Building a Society of Opportunities

Mar 5, 2019 13:35

Joint Segment on Building a Society of Opportunities

Mr Chairman, I will speak on home ownership, which is central to providing stability and progress for families in the long run. 

Home ownership gives Singaporeans a stake in our country, and gives each family a permanent place to call their own. Also households can use their CPF to pay for their mortgage, giving them a home and an asset, instead of using cash to pay rent.

That said, some families run into difficulties such as job losses, and are unable to own a home for some time. We work closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to ensure that they are not left without a roof over their heads. And those who lack family support and alternative housing options will be assisted with public rental housing. 

Members have asked how we help tenants to attain home ownership. We agree that public rental should only be temporary for tenants who are work-capable, and are therefore increasing support to help tenants progress towards home ownership. 

As highlighted by Mr Saktiandi Supaat, the Fresh Start Housing Scheme was designed for this purpose. We introduced Fresh Start in 2016 to assist second-timer rental families with children to buy a 2-room flat. Families on the scheme can get a grant of up to $35,000. And beyond direct financial assistance, we seek to ensure that the families can sustain home ownership independently. We also work with MSF to check-in with the families regularly, to ensure that the family situation remains stable. To provide Mr Ong Teng Koon with an update, as of last month, 74 families have joined Fresh Start, of which five families have collected the keys. These numbers may seem small, but for those who benefit from the scheme, the help provided means a lot and we want them to succeed in their home ownership journey. This is why we regularly review ways to enhance Fresh Start, and to intensify support for those who are already on the scheme. I will share more details on these enhancements at the Ministry of National Development’s Committee of Supply debate. 

Through Fresh Start, we have gained a better understanding of how best to support our tenants in their journey towards home ownership. For example, some needed advice on budgeting for a flat purchase, and others shared that they appreciated the face-to-face support from the Fresh Start team. 

As Members can imagine, it is a manpower-intensive effort, but such individualised efforts are well worth it. We are heartened by this, and want to scale up our efforts. 

I am pleased to share that we will set up the Home ownership Support Team, a dedicated team in HDB to help our rental households towards home ownership. We want to provide stronger, personalised hand-holding for families who are ready for home ownership. The Home ownership Support Team will help tenants to navigate home ownership policies and processes – from discussing the options that would best meet their needs and budget and guide them through the purchase, to checking in to ensure that the family remains on track for key collection. We have learnt that having someone to consult, and more importantly, to provide the human touch, is important for our tenants. The Home ownership Support Team will be set up later this year, and will start reaching out to families with potential for home ownership. 

Home ownership may not be an immediate goal for some tenants who may first need to address more complex challenges such as family conflict. Our priority is to help these families stabilise. Hence, we will be providing spaces for MSF to establish social service hubs near rental flats to offer localised programmes and services. Once these families have stabilised, we look forward to engaging them, for HDB to work with them on their journey towards home ownership. 

I have met many rental tenants who aspire towards home ownership. Some shared with me that they are working hard, and saving up diligently to buy a flat for themselves and to give their families a better future. We are heartened that last year, about 1,300 households moved into home ownership. These numbers have increased steadily in the last few years. We want to keep this up, and will work hard to partner our tenants in their efforts.