Friday 26 October 2012

2,000 rental flats to be built for lower-income families, to be ready for occupation progressively from 2014

They will be in Punggol, Sembawang, Yishun, Bukit Batok and Sengkang
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2012

SOME 2,000 rental flats are being built to meet the housing needs of lower-income families.

These units will be located in Punggol, Sembawang, Yishun, Bukit Batok and Sengkang, and are part of the Government's promise last year to have a total of 57,000 rental flats by 2015.

A Housing Board spokesman yesterday said construction of the 2,000 units will begin by next year.

"These flats are expected to be ready for occupation progressively from 2014," she said.

Public rental flats, meant to be the final housing safety net, cost tenants $26 to $275 monthly, depending on income, and come in one-room and two-room options.

In his National Day Rally speech last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recognised that there were Singaporean families who could not afford to buy flats, and pledged to increase the rental supply.

The Government had previously said it aims to have 50,000 rental units by this year, and the Housing Board spokesman said the agency was "on track" to meet this target.

Rental flats are typically built specifically for needy families, although some include older converted flats, such as those on Spooner Road in the Tanjong Pagar area.

The 208 units there, which once housed employees of Malaysia's railway operator, will be offered for selection next month.

Mr Teo Ser Luck, an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said requests for rental flats are a "regular feature" during his Meet-the-People Sessions. Consistently, he said, those asking for such units make up at least three out of every 10 cases he sees.

"It's disheartening that most of these requests come from the elderly, who ask for flats because of domestic issues."

He added: "The other groups, such as younger couples or those with financial issues, are already receiving some kind of assistance, but ask us to expedite the waiting time."

In January this year, the Ministry of National Development said the average waiting time for a rental unit had been reduced to about five months, from 21 months in 2008.

As of July this year, there were about 45,600 households living in Housing Board rental units. Each tenancy runs for two years.

Mr Liang Eng Hwa, who is deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, said although the wait has shortened, demand has not abated.

"On the ground, I've noticed that some families currently staying in one-room rental flats are asking for two-roomers, as their children are growing up and need more space," he said.

On whether there should be even more rental flats set aside for the needy, he said: "Of course as the population grows, the number of rental units should grow also. But we have to work at home ownership, where one can hedge against inflation and keep the property for retirement."

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said rental flats play an important role.

"The fact is that there are people or households who cannot afford to purchase their own flats; neither can they afford to rent from the open market," he said.

"They therefore need subsidised rental housing, and having a stable place to live in is particularly important for children, who could potentially break out of the poverty cycle."

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