COS Cuts for Ministry of National Development
Waiving Ex-Spousal Consent for Housing
Going through a divorce is not emotionally easy for both parents and their children. And it makes matters worse when they have to worry about whether they have a home to live in after the divorce.
In response to the Public Petition I filed, MND has stated that “a range of government agencies work together to ensure that no child is without adequate housing, regardless of whether his or her parents are single or married”.
But the problem arises when parents do not have sole care and control of all the children and all the children are aged below 18 at the time of the divorce. They will need to get their ex-spouse’s consent to apply for subsidised public housing. This consent requirement is difficult since their relationship is clearly strained. I also note that sole care and control is seldom awarded.
I do understand that in the last three years, HDB granted more than 200 requests to waive the consent requirement but I hope Minister can consider waiving this requirement altogether for all divorcees.
One issue that divorcees may face is the time bar for the purchase of subsidised flats – I think Mr Louis Ng mentioned this just now. This is a rule put in place since 1997, whereby during the time bar, a divorced couple can only own one subsidised flat between them. Both sides have to agree on who should be allowed to buy the subsidised flat. This is what we call the “mutual consent requirement”. The time bar was set at five years initially, and we have reduced it to three years. Since 2012, we have waived the mutual consent requirement for the parent with sole care and control of young children to buy a subsidised flat, in order to prioritise their housing needs. This has helped the majority of divorced couples with children.
But there are still others subject to the time bar. So we have reviewed the matter, and have decided to remove the time bar completely. We hope that this will help divorced persons provide a more conducive living environment for their children and go some way to help families through an already difficult period of transition.
We will continue to do our best to help these and other groups, including single unmarried parents with children. We already exercise considerable flexibility for such appeals as I have already elaborated upon in previous sessions, and we will continue to do so. We look at each case carefully and consider what’s in the best interest of the child and if necessary, we will assist the parent and child in purchasing a flat.
Integrating Rental Units Into Community
I have two rental blocks in Nee Soon East and they are in a sense isolated from most of the other HDB blocks, with a school on one side and industrial properties on the other side.
I feel the stigma from living in a rental flat is strong especially when they seem to be isolated from the community and I worry about how children brought up in this environment will feel and what the impact is on them.
I understand that they are existing HDB blocks where rental units are integrated with sold units in the same block thereby integrating the community and I understand HDB is studying the effectiveness of such integration.
Can the Minister share some preliminary findings on the study done on the effect on the children living in such integrated blocks and whether HDB intends to build more of such blocks and if so when.
SMS Koh Poh Koon spoke about how we help rental flat families buy homes.
Increasing AVA’s budget
I’ve raised animal protection issues for the past 2 COS and this year I really want to record my deep appreciation for the good work the AVA has done and to thank them for the tremendous progress they have made in the animal protection movement in Singapore.
While there are still issues to be worked on, nothing and nobody is perfect but we are definitely heading in the right direction and the collaborative approach has yielded much success for both our residents and the animals.
And so this really isn’t a cut per se. In fact I don’t propose we cut their budget but hope that the Minister can consider increasing their budget so that a team that has done amazing work with very limited resources can do even more this year and can achieve even more progress.
I would like to thank the Member for his encouraging words. AVA’s officers will be very encouraged by what he has said. AVA will continue to partner Institutes of Higher Learning, Animal Welfare Groups (AWGs), and the broader public to address human-animal issues and develop solutions, using a humane, science-based approach that involves close partnerships with the community. This year, AVA will launch a Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage Programme for stray dogs. We look forward to working closely with AWGs and veterinarians to make this programme a success.