Monday 16 June 2014

Govt may tweak quota system to help married couples live near their parents

By Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia, 14 Jun 2014

Tweaking the quota system is one option the government could look into to improve the chances of those hoping to live near their parents.

Minister of State Mohamad Maliki Osman said this at the second housing conversation session on Saturday which aims to find out what more can be done to help extended families live together or close by.

He said another area is to consider extending grants to second-time home buyers purchasing HDB resale flats near their parents.

Thirty-six married participants attended the second housing conversation.

About a third said they were in favour of giving absolute priority to those hoping to buy a new flat near their parents.

32-year-old Arina Tan, who has a one-year-old daughter, said: "We had been balloting for a flat near our parents for four times but we weren't able to get it. For the fifth time, we tried a further place at Yishun where the government has opened up more flats at the non-mature estates. We were able to get it.

“We have our flat in Yishun but we still stay weekdays at my in-laws place because of the baby. She can take care of her and we do not need to travel every day from Yishun to Jurong."

A week ago, courting couples gave a resounding "no" when asked if they were in favour of giving absolute priority to those hoping to buy a new flat near their parents.

To prevent people from abusing the system, some participants said there should be conditions if absolute priority is given such as extending the Minimum Occupation Period from five, to 10 years.

However, some also acknowledged the challenges of giving absolute priority.

"If somebody were to have absolute priority, then there would be another group that wouldn't have anything at all so I think it's a bit difficult," said Joewind Han.

About half of the participants also said while they did not want absolute priority, they were in favour of more priority being given.

One option could be to tweak the quota system instead.

Dr Maliki said: "As we try to look at ways to enhance the opportunities for young couples to live near their parents, one option is to see how best we can tweak at the quota system. Today, we have about 85 per cent of BTO flats allocated to first-timers, 15 per cent to second-timers.

"One option is if you want to really look at ways to enhance the possibility, or increase the chances of second-timers who want to live near their parents, maybe we can set aside a quota within perhaps that 15 per cent. They can possibly look at how their chances can be better met. But nonetheless, we are still exploring some of these ideas."

Participants also discussed whether second-time home buyers should get housing grants when buying a resale flat near their parents.

Currently, first time home buyers purchasing a resale flat get a S$30,000 CPF Housing Grant, but this goes up to S$40,000 when they buy a resale flat to live together with, or near their parents.

Some had suggested that the additional S$10,000 be given to both first and second-timers.

Dr Maliki said: "This is a significant shift when we talk about giving grants to second-timers but I think they recognise the proposal is to give grants to those wanting to live near their parents and this is for those who did not get to exercise that option when they bought their first flat so I think it's quite a rational proposition.

"That's something that we can try to consider how else we can facilitate couples who have moved on to their next phase of their life stage to live near their parents. If it means that a grant can incentivise that, a grant can facilitate that, we will be prepared to consider that."

Participants were also split when asked if the government should continue building more Three-Generation (3Gen) flats.

Some said while they were in favour of having more 3Gen flats built, they also hoped some design improvements could be made.

"As a concept, it's great but I think if the useable space, the common spaces are not tweaked well, it could just lead to hot housing," said Goh Ling Pin.

"There could be extra conflict within the house like a lot of people crammed within a smaller space might not fulfil the purpose of helping a family get along," Goh added.

His wife Christine Choo said: "We are living with my father-in-law and I believe that he will like to have his own privacy as well, and for us to have our own privacy, but yet at the same time we want to live together so having a dual-key system where he's just next door and we're under one roof and for us to take care of the financing, would be very helpful for elderly who is also a retiree."

Dr Maliki said: "We're looking at the needs, the profile of different family types, size commensurate with the size of the family too. We want to make it optimal for families when they use the spaces."

Dr Maliki said how the first batch of 3Gen flats in Yishun pans out will have to be observed before fine-tuning designs.

The next housing conversation session is on June 19 and will target seniors with children above 21.

Married couples' ideas for housing
BTO quota for those who want to live near parents among ideas mooted at dialogue
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Sunday Times, 15 Jun 2014

A new quota for Build-to-Order (BTO) flats and extending grants to second-timers purchasing resale flats close to their parents - these were some of the ideas floated by married couples at a housing dialogue yesterday at the National Library.

The first idea, where a certain number of BTO flats will be set aside for couples who buy with or near their parents, surfaced as a more palatable alternative to giving them "absolute priority".

The idea of "absolute priority", which was first floated by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a blog post last month, would do away with balloting for those who buy BTO flats in the same Housing Board estate as their parents. This guarantees them a flat.

Some participants at the dialogue felt that this would make it unfair for others who do not have parents already living in their choice estate.

Instead, setting aside a quota would not only give those who want to be close to their parents a better chance of securing a flat, but would also not deny others an opportunity to get a flat.

Health-care administrator Kristen Guo and her husband managed to secure a BTO flat in Bedok close to his parents, but the couple feel that the system should be fair and not overly prioritise living close to one's family.

"What about those who don't want to be close to their parents?" said Ms Guo, 28.

Yesterday's dialogue was the second of three Housing Conversations this month organised by the Ministry of National Development to engage Singaporeans on the topic of how housing policies can help draw families closer together.

The participants, aged 26 to 48, comprised 13 married couples and another 10 who came without their spouses. The first session on June 7 featured young courting couples.

Yesterday, the older married couples also discussed the idea of extending a resale flat housing grant for living with or close to one's parents to second-timers.

The $10,000 grant is currently applicable only to first-timers who wish to buy a resale flat with or close to their parents.

Extending the grant would help make it easier for couples who already have a flat, to move closer to their parents should they wish to.

Ms Arina Tan and her husband are one such couple who would stand to benefit from this.

"It would make getting a resale flat near my in-laws so much easier," said Ms Tan, a 29-year-old purchaser in the marine industry, who is married to IT engineer Robin Lim, 32.

The couple, who have a one-year-old daughter, balloted unsuccessfully for four BTO flats in Jurong.

They had hoped to secure a flat there so that Mr Lim's mother, who lives in the area, could help with babysitting during the day while they are working.

They ended up settling for a BTO flat in Yishun in January, but stay with Mr Lim's mother on weekdays because of childcare.

Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman, who also attended the discussion, said these suggestions were "rational propositions" worth exploring.

He added that they might help strike a balance when it comes to giving some groups priorities over others.

"One of the things we recognise in terms of giving priorities... it's always a challenge, because giving priority to one group means less priority to another group."

The participants also discussed their preferred living arrangements vis-a-vis their parents. About two-thirds of them said they wanted to live in the same neighbourhood as their parents.

This echoes an ongoing online survey by MND, which shows that, as of last Thursday, 24 per cent of courting couples plan to live with their parents, while 42 per cent of married couples actually do so.

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