More can be done for the rental flat tenants in Singapore, according to three Members of Parliament and a Nominated Member of Parliament who spoke at the Ministry of National Development's Committee of Supply (COS) debate today (Mar. 4).
Member of Parliament Gan Thiam Poh, for instance, asked if MND can accept tenants' cumulative rental payment as down payment for their own HDB flats down the road, or provide additional grants so that they can own a home faster.
Both MPs Lim Biow Chuan and Lily Neo urged MND to consider allowing single tenants — often elderly people who are living alone — to rent flats by themselves.
Currently, single tenants can only rent a HDB flat under the Public Rental Scheme with a co-tenant.
Both Lim and Neo pointed out that this policy has led to conflict between tenants, which invariably led to some choosing to sleep out in the streets.
"The community mediation doesn't work for them for many reasons," said Neo, adding that conflict between tenants affects their well-being and also causes depression in some.
"The situation is untenable," said Lim, referring to rental flat tenants who are driven to sleep in the streets.
Neo also asked if HDB can provide more partitioned rental flats so that tenants can have more privacy.
Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong pointed out that rental flats do not have the same maximum occupancy limit as owned flats.
Families who do not earn income are only eligible for one-bedroom flats, regardless of the number of family members living together.
"This results in families of five or six squeezing into one-bedroom flat or even families of more than 10 in two-bedroom flats," said Ong who went on to list a litany of adverse effects from overcrowding.
Ong then urged MND to consider allocating three-room flats and above to families of five and over under the Public Rental Scheme.
HDB faces land supply constraint: Lawrence Wong
In response, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said that while HDB would like to accommodate requests for larger rental units or more dedicated units, it faces the constraint of limited land supply.
Calling HDB's approach "pragmatic", Wong said that it is getting increasingly difficult to ensure demand for flats can be met in a sustainable manner.
"We have to ensure that the demand for both new rental and new sold flats can be met on a sustainable basis, not just today, but over the coming decade and beyond. That’s actually getting harder and harder to do, as our island gets more built up."
Most single tenants, said Wong, are willing and able to live together in a rental flat. HDB also considers requests for lone tenancy, from the few with medical conditions, on an "exceptional basis", he added.
On occupancy caps, Wong clarified that these caps are imposed on the tenants who rent from HDB flat owners, and not on the family living in those flats.
Wong added that HDB tries its best to accommodate large families who rent from the agency.
"For example, for multi-nuclear families, we can offer them two rental units in the same block. On a case-by-case basis, we will be prepared to offer larger families a 3-room rental flat."
Two more integrated blocks to be launched this year
In 2018, Wong announced that the government was implementing new measures to tackle inequality and stratification, by constructing Build-To-Order (BTO) blocks integrating both rental and home ownership flats.
Currently, there are three of such blocks launched, in Woodlands, Bukit Batok, and Sengkang.
Wong stated during the during this year's COS debate that two more such blocks will be launched in May 2020, in Pasir Ris.
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