Sunday, 4 December 2016

Fresh Start Housing Scheme open for applications from 1 Dec 2016

By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2016

Applications to be on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme are now open for families who once owned a flat but now live in public rental units.

The scheme allows the families, who must have at least a child below the age of 16, to apply for a new Housing Board flat with a grant of up to $35,000, the Ministry of National Development and HDB announced in a statement yesterday.

After getting on the scheme, families have a year to apply for a new flat in the HDB's regular Build-To-Order or Sale of Balance Flats launches.

The scheme was first mentioned in last year's National Day Rally, with details given in this year's Committee of Supply debate. During the rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was concerned about the future of a group of families who, without help, may be permanently out of reach of getting their own flat.

The scheme has several conditions. For instance, at least one of the applicants must have been in stable employment for the previous 12 months. The family must also be assessed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). The MSF and HDB will do regular checks to ensure the families are on track.

In a blog post, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said: "Some second-timer public rental families are ready and hoping to own a home again - they are in stable employment, manage their finances well, and have a stable home environment."

But they might find it challenging to buy a flat, he added.

The scheme helps by letting them buy a two-room flexi flat on a shorter lease and giving them another HDB concessionary rate loan and a new Fresh Start Housing Grant of up to $35,000.

Mr Wong said: "We are starting with a more targeted approach. So the number of Fresh Start families may not be large to begin with."

Interested families must apply and be placed on the scheme before applying for a flat. They can do so on the HDB website, at HDB branches or at Toa Payoh HDB Hub.

Mr Wong has also appointed a Fresh Start Advisory Committee to support outreach efforts and give guidance on implementation.

Fresh Start scheme will be made flexible
To help poor families own a flat again, certain conditions may be waived in some cases
By Priscilla Goy, The Sunday Times, 4 Dec 2016

The Government will waive some conditions on a case-by-case basis when implementing the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, a programme that helps struggling families own a flat again.

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman revealed this to reporters yesterday, on the sidelines of a career fair in Bedok.

Dr Maliki chairs the advisory panel which will support outreach efforts and guide how best to put the scheme into practice. He was in the Ministry of National Development when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned the scheme at last year's National Day Rally.

The scheme is for families who once owned a flat but now live in public rental units. It helps the families, who must have at least one child aged below 16, by letting them buy a two-room flexi flat on a shorter lease, with a grant of up to $35,000. Applications opened last Thursday.

One condition of the scheme is that the family must live in the new flat for 20 years before they can resell it, but Dr Maliki said this minimum occupation period (MOP) could be waived in certain cases.

"The MOP is to give a sense of contracting with the Government because we are giving them subsidies again. We want to make sure that they are focused on stabilising the families in the long term," he said.

"But, if within 10 years, you are doing very well and you feel that you want to give your children the sense that you can upgrade (to a bigger flat) and do better, why not?"

He added: "There's the MOP for commitment, but there's the flexibility to work on a case-by-case basis."

About 1,000 families could qualify for the scheme. Interested families must apply and be placed on the scheme before applying for a flat.

Dr Maliki said outreach efforts would be made to get families who potentially qualify to understand the options available to them.

He said some families may worry about whether they can afford to buy a new flat and "may need a bit of handholding to look at the sums and what they already have".

Government agencies will work with community partners to help such families and encourage those who do not meet certain eligibility criteria, such as in employment, to seek help to improve their situation so they can apply, he said. One of the scheme's conditions is that at least one parent has been in stable employment in the previous 12 months.

Security supervisor Jamnah Hamzah, 43, is keen to apply. She lives in a two-room rental flat in Woodlands with her two children, aged eight and 19. Her husband is in jail.

She used to own a flat but had to move out due to financial difficulties. She said: "I hope to give my children a better learning environment and stable home."

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Fresh Start families to get personalised support
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