Rental Housing

MP Sylvia Lim

Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied): Chairman. During last month’s debates on HDB housing, it was acknowledged by MND that some families were not ready to buy HDB flats as they first needed to build up their finances. There are also other families who used to own flats, but due to disruptions such as divorce or business failure, ended up losing their homes. HDB rental housing is a valued option for such families and individuals. From what I have seen from my Meet-the-People Sessions, the demand for rental housing is very high.

HDB’s eligibility criteria for rental flats are understandably strict. Most applicants must have household incomes of not more than $1,500 per month. Singles must be aged 35 or older before they can apply to co-share with another tenant. If one is approved, the waiting time for allocation of flats is about eight months. The sizes of the flats available under the Public Rental Scheme (PRS) are restricted to one-room flats and two-room flats.

From my observations, these parameters lead to hardship on two fronts.

First, the economics. A household earning above $1,500 to say, $2,500 may not be able to afford other housing options. Rentals in the open market are unaffordable. As for purchasing a flat, much depends on one’s CPF savings, age and ability to work.

Secondly, living conditions. Rental blocks have many more flat units. Though the flats may be small, this does not translate into smaller household sizes. The small size of flats means that families may be not able to confine their belongings to the unit itself, resulting in possessions being placed along the common corridors, affecting the living environment and becoming potential fire hazards.

I note that HDB’s recent initiatives to improve living conditions. It has been announced that there will be improvements in lighting and ventilation of new rental blocks. A separate initiative proposes to mix rental flats with owner-occupied flats. These are welcome moves and I hope the Government will continue to look for ways to both improve the quality of rental housing and reduce the stigma of living in the rental flats.

Related to this, I would like to ask two questions. First, moving forward, would HDB consider reviewing the household income cut-off for rental flats, to say, $2,500 per month? Secondly, would HDB look into providing larger flats, say 3-room flats, under the Public Rental Scheme?

Ministry of National Development
2 March 2023

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