Getting IRH to Work Better

MND introduced the Interim Rental Housing (IRH) scheme in 2009 as a pilot, to help needy families with temporary housing at subsidised rates, while they work out a more permanent solution. The scheme is run by private operators, not HDB. To cover costs, the operators are allowed to lease out a portion of the flats at each IRH site at market rental rates to other Singaporeans and foreigners working and studying in Singapore.

IRH is a minor supplement to the public rental housing scheme which is run by the HDB. (While 1,500 households are under the IRH scheme, 45,000 families are living in the HDB rental flats.)

We are tweaking the IRH scheme to better serve Singaporean families in need.

First, HDB will exercise greater oversight of the IRH scheme, to ensure that the private operators managing the scheme serve needy Singaporean families first. HDB will limit the role of the operators to managing the IRH tenancies and premises on HDB’s behalf.

Second, HDB will introduce guidelines to ensure better pairing of households to help minimise conflicts. (IRH requires two households to flat-share as this lowers their individual rental cost.)

Third, HDB will extend the IRH tenancy period from six months to a year, renewable for up to two years. This will reduce the anxiety that families feel, and give greater certainty to tenants who may need more time to work out a longer-term housing option. (Those waiting for their new flat or public rental flat can continue to renew until their flat is ready for occupancy.)

The first site that will operate under the revised IRH terms is at Dover Road, with about 500 flats.

As for the existing five IRH sites, HDB will honour the contracts with the private operators until their lease expiry.

I hope that these changes will provide a more stable living environment for needy Singapore families in transition. But we should be mindful of the many social problems faced by these families. Resolving them will require many helping hands, from CDC, FSCs, self-help groups to the local social service agencies.

Let’s try to give them a leg up, especially the children.

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