TL;DR – It’s about time things changed.
Recently, National Youth Council (NYC) tried to be smart. They wanted to get youths to discuss contentious issues. They did so by holding a forum theatre play. The issue had something to do with allocation of HDB flats. Households that don’t fall into Singapore’s standard idea of a wholesome family were at risk of not getting allocated a flat in a new community.
While the scenario in NYC’s play was fictitious, there are indeed real cases where certain households find it difficult to get housing. In particular, unwed mothers often find getting affordable housing to be beyond their reach.
Many single unwed mothers find it tough to get housing
Unwed mothers and their children don’t count as a family nucleus. As such, unwed mothers can only buy a HDB flat under the Singles Scheme. That means they have to wait till they turn 35 before they can buy a HDB flat. Of course, unwed mothers can appeal to HDB.
From 2014 to 2016, about 100 single unwed parents under the age of 35 appealed to buy a flat with their children and without other family members. Only about 20% of those appeals were successful.
This means that single unwed mothers have to rent. And they can’t even rent from HDB (same rules about family nucleus applies). That means they have to rent from the open market.
Now think about it. It’s already difficult enough as it is for a single unwed mother to bring up a child on their own. Every cent counts. Renting from the open market will take out a sizeable chunk from your income and will add to what is already a nearly unbearable financial burden.
MP submits petition to change that
There are real people suffering because of this HDB policy. Members of Parliament (MPs) see these cases every so often.
MPs like Mr Louis Ng. He thinks that this needs to change. As such, he had presented a petition to Parliament, calling for more inclusive housing policies for single parents.
The petition want to include a subsection in the Housing and Development Act, to state that the minister and the board “shall not discriminate against any person with legal custody of a child on grounds of such person’s marital status”.
Will new MSF minister continue trend from previous MSF minister?
The petition comes at an interesting time. The new Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) is Mr Desmond Lee. He also happens to be the Second Minister for National Development. He is well placed to consider this issue from both the housing and family development perspective.
Also, Mr Lee inherits MSF from Mr Tan Chuan-Jin. Last year, Mr Tan, when he was Minister for Social and Family Development, announced that unwed mothers will get he same 16-week maternity leave that other mothers get. Their children will also be given a Child Development Account (CDA). Prior to Mr Tan’s announcements, only married parents and their children get those benefits.
We hope that Minister Desmond Lee, in his new role leading MSF, would continue the good work that Mr Tan has done. That would move Singapore closer to being a truly inclusive and compassionate society, one where no one is left behind.