HDB: Those who are left out

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HDB policies are difficult to design. On one hand there is a need to match supply to demand, otherwise prices will spiral out of control. On the other hand, there is a need for the lives of Singaporeans to be met. If you grow-up, go to school, pass your exams well, get a good job, get married early and buy a house, have kids and live happily ever after – then chances are you’ll find little problem with estate policies.

Problems occur when life gets rough. And life does get rough.

What if your marriage ends up in divorce?

In 2011, there were a total of 7,604 marital dissolutions, this was up from 7,338 from 2010.

Each time there is a divorce, there is a splitting up of assets and children – a most painful process.

We spoke with Mdm. Wu, 32. She told us of how she underwent a difficult divorce 2 years ago. Together with her ex-husband, both decided to sell the apartment and split the proceeds, of which is about $93k to each of them.

Here is her predicament:

She will have to move out by April 2013, along with her two young girls aged 8 and 6. With a nett salary of less than $2k, she is unable to afford market rental rates. Her two girls will consume about $800 of her salary and with whatever remaining, she has to pay for everyday expenses and set aside money in case of emergencies, medical emergencies being her biggest worry.

One of her daughters suffers from a ear a genesis (a medical condition where the person is born without one or both ears), this affects the hearing ability of the girl and because of this she needs continual treatment.

 

Ordeal with the HDB

Her first port of call for assistance was naturally the HDB. Yet appointment after appointment, appeal after appeal, she only has been presented with a few options:

a.)           To buy from the Open market (which is priced way out of her reach),

b.)          To buy an BTO apartment (of which she will not stand a chance any time soon),

c.)           To buy a HDB repossessed apartment (of which HDB told her got to wait for the Sales of Balance flat exercise)

The reply came in the form of cold letters informing Mdm. Wu that “…the HDB has to be fair to other applicants” and that she has to go through the “standard application procedures”.

“Yes, I know there are many others and I understand”, lamented Mdm. Wu, “…but meanwhile, I have a life to live, I have two children to feed and provide for, how do you expect me to be sympathetic to the HDB?”

“I’m just hoping for them to expedite it a little, is that too much to ask”, or let me have a balance flat which I could afford for. Anywhere(If Punggol cannot, how about Jurong) also can? If not, maybe I should camp outside HDB hub.

When Mdm. Wu first told the HDB officer of her daughter’s medical situation, the HDB officer requested for documentary proof. Mdm. Wu acquired this through doctors, at a cost of $80.00. When she duly submitted this to the HDB, a swift reply came – her application had been rejected.

To rub salt to the wound, she does not qualify for interim housing as her salary exceeds means testing by that few hundred dollars.

Without a roof for her and her daughters, Mdm. Wu has little options. Either she pleads with her friends and brother for a place to stay temporarily.

Now, her brother lives in a 3 roomed apartment together with his wife, a 3 year old son,  both parents and paternal grandmother. Now there would be 9 people living in this house, sharing a finite number of resources – space included. Can you see where this is headed? 

Singapore is a country whom wants to build citizens of strength that does not become a burden on state resources. It is a fair, not welfare society. It wants a person’s immediate social circle as the first circle of help rather than the Government.

But is it really so difficult to make some lives better?

About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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