MP Lim Biow Chuan: Allow elderly estranged from family rent flats alone

"Much as we wish to encourage the families to look after their seniors, the reality is that relationship issues are not easily resolved."

Guan Zhen Tan| February 28, 02:23 PM

Mountbatten SMC MP Lim Biow Chuan spoke in Parliament on Feb. 27 in support of the budget, but urged the revision of certain policies, such as the Joint Singles Scheme (JSS) for public rental flats.

Lim asked the government to consider a change in policy to allow the elderly to rent flats alone, on a case-by-case basis.

Below is the transcript of his speech:

I also call on the Government to consider a change in its policies to allow elderly singles to rent a flat alone. During my MPS, I regularly receive requests from elderly seniors who for some reason cannot get along with their family members or children.

They quarrel frequently and want to shift out so that they can preserve their dignity and not stay in an unhappy home. However, they have no where to move to. Much as we wish to encourage the families to look after their seniors, the reality is that relationship issues are not easily resolved.

I am of the view that we should not compel an elderly person to stay with the family when he or she is clearly estranged from the family. Can the Government consider better support for our seniors by allowing them to rent a 1 room flat on a case by case basis?

This would allow some of them to live in dignity in their retirement years instead of living in a hostile environment.

Individuals cannot rent flats alone

Rental flats, under the Public Rental Scheme, are given to those in the lower income bracket, with tenants earning an income of not more than S$1,500.

It is open to families under the Families Scheme, and singles under the JSS.

Usually, individuals cannot be the sole tenant of rental flats, to ensure that the limited public flats are rented out prudently to those in need.

Currently, singles looking to rent such a flat under the JSS must fulfil either of the following criteria:

  • Unmarried and at least 35 years old
  • Divorced or legally separated from their spouse, with legal documents, and at least 35 years old
  • Widowed or orphaned (at least 1 parent was a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident)

Elderly with children that can house them in their own homes and provide housing options for them currently do not qualify for the scheme.

They may also be barred from entry to the Public Rental Scheme because of past property ownership, and if they are assessed to be able to afford a flat or have other housing options.

This forms the crux of the problem that Lim had mentioned when the relationship between parents and children sour.

Conflict with co-tenants

The JSS is understood to have some benefits,  such as tenants being able to look out for each other to keep each other company.

However, it's been reported previously that some elderly also find it difficult to get along with their flatmates as well.

Currently, the Housing Development Board (HDB) does grant requests to individual singles to stay alone in a rental flat on a case-by-case basis, but for mostly medical reasons such as the tenant having an illness that might spread.

Some who are unable to deal with their flatmates for various reasons end up turning towards their respective MPs to request a change in co-tenant or have grassroots leaders mediate the situation between them.

Appeals to change their co-tenant are not always successful, as each case will be evaluated by HDB on their merits.

Top image adapted via Lim Biow Chuan's Facebook page