One of the groups we consulted were former flat owners who are now living in public rental flats. We wanted to better understand the challenges they face and how the government can better support them.
Most said they wanted to own a flat again for their children to grow up in, but were unable to get mortgage loans. Some also said it was difficult to pay the resale levy in cash.
The Fresh Start Housing Scheme will go some way to help these second-timer families.
First, the new Fresh Start Housing Grant will reduce the amount they need to pay.
Second, we can consider providing them with another HDB concessionary loan.
Third, I’ve asked HDB to explore offering 2-room Flexi-flats on shorter leases under this scheme. These flats are more affordable due to the shorter lease, and are currently only available to the elderly. We are also studying the possibility of a longer Minimum Occupation Period for these flats.
While I understand that some larger families may prefer to buy a bigger flat, it would be more prudent to secure a flat first, and then move on to a bigger unit when they are able to do so.
The 2-room Flexi-flats will be similar in size to their existing rental flats, but this will be a flat which they will pay for and will eventually be able to call their own, unlike a rental flat. This is the big difference.
Taken together, the provision of another housing grant, another concessionary HDB loan, and a shorter lease flat are significant steps to help these families.
We also met with former public rental tenants who have progressed to become home owners. I was inspired by how they overcame various challenges to own their homes again.
Many of them achieved this with support from friends, family, government agencies and community organisations. Above all, they had a very strong sense of self-motivation. They all agreed on the importance of securing regular employment, working hard, and putting their children through school, so that the problems do not continue with the next generation.
While this group had succeeded in buying flats on their own, they felt that the government could provide additional support to the families who have not been able to do so, provided they show the commitment to put their lives and finances in order.
In our consultations with social workers, they said that a critical factor was for these families to believe in their own ability to succeed. They gave many good suggestions to give these families hope and motivation.
One suggestion was to disburse the housing grant in a few tranches over time, subject to certain conditions which have to be met, instead of a single lump-sum payout. I think this is a good idea, which HDB will consider incorporating into the scheme.
Given the complex issues families face, some may need more guidance and support before they can commit to homeownership. So the number of Fresh Start families may not be large to begin with. But it’s better to start the scheme on a sound footing, and then see how it can be expanded over time to benefit more families.
Overall, we received many valuable insights and suggestions to make Fresh Start a meaningful scheme.
We have posted the summaries of our discussions at the Fresh Start webpage. We continue to welcome your views, and you can send us your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for helping our fellow Singaporeans who are making the effort towards home ownership.
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