Monday, March 5, 2012

Housing plight of vulnerable in spotlight

Straits Times: Sat, Mar 03
THE plight of divorcees, widows and the poor came to the fore in Parliament yesterday, as a dozen Members of Parliament spoke out passionately for groups in society that have been disadvantaged by Singapore's public housing policies.

In response, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan pledged that the Government would 'strive to govern with compassion' and make exceptions for the truly needy.

At least three MPs brought up the plight of divorcees, who have to wait five years from the date a divorce is made final before they can buy an HDB flat or be listed as an occupier.

They also have to deal with a 30-month debarment period after selling their flats before they can apply for subsidised rental housing.

Highlighting cases where divorcing couples are ordered by a court to sell their matrimonial flats, Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) said it is unhealthy for single parents and their children to have to resort to sharing a confined living space with relatives because they cannot find another place to live.

'Instead of the standard policy of asking the divorcee to wait for a debarment period of 30 months, can HDB allow divorcees with children to rent a flat quickly? Alternatively, can they be allowed to buy a flat directly from HDB?' he asked.

Mr Khaw said his ministry was in fact 'sympathetic to divorcees', especially those with young children.

He noted that 670 rental flats were allocated last year to divorcees with children, making up more than 20 per cent of such allocations last year.

But he also cautioned that only truly special cases should get help, to avoid the potential for abuse...

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