Sunday 22 June 2014

3Gen flats? Parents prefer bigger grants, priority for kids

Participants at MND session keener on children buying units near them
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2014

A TOTAL of 50 three-generation or 3Gen flats will be among the new Housing Board apartments that will be launched in new town Tampines North later this year.

These 3Gen flats, introduced last September to encourage multiple generations to live under one roof, are larger than a five-room unit.

However, they received a lukewarm response at a discussion on Thursday among married couples with adult children, on the topic of living close to extended family members.

Instead, the parents were far more keen on the Government giving bigger grants and higher, if not absolute, priority for their children to buy flats near them.

But the 3Gen flats are just one way to encourage closer family ties, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee when he spoke of the Tampines North move at the session organised by his ministry.

"It is not the 3Gen flat or nothing," he said, pointing out that it is one of many HDB flat types available to Singaporeans. Also, it complements two schemes that promote living close to extended family members.

One is the Married Child Priority Scheme: Those who choose to live near their parents will double their chances when balloting for a flat, while those who live with their parents will triple their chances.

The other is the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme. It sets aside up to 15 per cent of studio apartments and two- and three-room flats in a Build-To-Order project for couples and their parents who apply for separate new flats in the same project.

In acknowledging the crowd's tepid response to the 3Gen flat, Mr Lee said: "There's always the negative possibility of friction that may cause families to lose that spirit of closeness."

"Different people have different aspirations," he added, on how close they want to live to their extended family. "We'll try our best to meet every Singaporean's wish."

To this end, Mr Lee said his ministry will seriously consider giving higher grants for resale flats. Now, the $10,000 grant is only for first-time HDB owners buying a resale flat with or near their parents or married children.

About 70 per cent of the 51 people at the four-hour session asked for an increase in the grant.

Many also suggested that it keep up with inflation, or be a proportion of the cost of the flat.

Thursday's discussion was the third of four the ministry is holding. The earlier two were for courting couples and married couples with young or no children.

The final one is on July 15. All Singaporeans are invited to sign up for it at homesweethome/

Seniors want to live near family but are not keen on 3Gen flats, dialogue shows
Majority of seniors who took part in a housing dialogue say more priority should be given to flat buyers who want to live near, or with, their parents
By Jordan Skadian, TODAY, 20 Jun 2014

While they expressed a desire to live near their children and grandchildren, most seniors who took part in a housing dialogue session organised by the Ministry of National Development (MND) yesterday (June 19) were not in favour of three-generation (3Gen) flats.

More than half of the 51 participating seniors, ranging in age from 44 to 83, said they were not averse to awarding absolute priority to Build-to-Order (BTO) applicants who want to live near, or with their parents — a contrary response to that of courting couples in the first Housing Conversations session, who felt that giving priority to these buyers would be unfair.

“If the government wishes to encourage families to stay together, why shouldn’t they make it as easy as possible? The choice is ultimately the children’s, they can take advantage of it or not,” said Mr Adnan, 55, a participant at the event.

Others who were not so sure suggested that it puts other applicants, who might have other priorities, at an unfair disadvantage.

Under the existing Married Child Priority Scheme or Multi-Generation Priority Scheme, ballot chances are increased and a 15 per cent quota for certain BTO units are set aside respectively for such applicants.

Three-generation (3Gen) flats, however, proved to be an unpopular proposition, with 75 per cent of the participants providing a resounding “no”. Concerns such as friction between relatives and an unconducive environment were repeatedly voiced.

“The older and younger generations may have vastly different habits and not get along under the same roof, it’s idealistic but ultimately not the most workable,” said Dr Rosalind Lui, a participant.

Yet, Mr Frankie Chew, 67, who voted favourably, said he finds the idea of “kampung living” appealing, adding that “it would be nice for the option to be on the table”.

The majority of seniors also voiced support for larger CPF grants for resale flats.

Currently, first-time resale flat buyers are offered an additional S$10,000 grant if they apply for a flat near their parents, a scheme that has seen a 40 per cent take-up rate, according to MND figures.

Mr Mitchell, 64, a participant who has three children, felt that there was room for improvement. “Any bit goes a long way, especially where a family is just starting and the older generation has retired, factoring in rising costs everywhere else and the resale levy, S$10,000 just is not enough,” he said.

A common suggestion among the participants was to peg the grant to a percentage of the price, or increase it at the rate of inflation, an idea that MND said would be taken into consideration.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, who was speaking at the dialogue, announced that there will be a fourth Housing Conversation cross-generation session, which will take place in mid-July. The Housing Conversation series was initially planned as a three-part series.

He said: “In conversations on housing arrangements, it’s important for a broad spectrum of Singaporeans to be brought together and hear each other’s views from across generations, to give us a richer discussion to meet the aspirations of all sorts of families island-wide with a broad range of options.”

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