MP Carrie Tan’s speech during the debates on MND’s Budget
Public Rental Housing – Covid Relief
Mr Chairman Sir,
In 2018, there was a study done to examine the healthcare utilisation of the low-income community in Singapore. It found that staying in public rental housing was associated with poorer health outcomes and status. Another study found that patients living in rental housing were more likely to have heart disease commonly associated with stress, and were more likely to use anti-depressant medication, staying in hospitals longer than other income groups, and were more frequently re-admitted into hospital.
A resident of mine Mr X has a knee condition but kept delaying his surgery, in order to feed his four kids. His wife is unable to work due to a slipped disc for which she needs surgery. Mr X cycles for hours every day as a Grab delivery rider to make ends meet. I worry about what happens when his knees finally give way. Another resident Mr Y in his 50s has to go for another surgery, one surgery after another. The first, to fix a workplace injury preventing him from working for 2 years, and then a stomach surgery for ulcer, and now he is being assessed for possible cancer. He cried to me, saying he feels so defeated because he can’t even afford to buy small snacks or treats for his grandchildren. He feels that he has failed as a father and grandfather.
Although some of these residents already pay very low rent each month, thanks to the subsidies from HDB, the fear that they may lose having shelter over their heads is a real one, and a real stress point. Even $100 rent a month is a stress point for someone in Mr X and Mr Y’s circumstances, and there are many of them.
High stress leads to more ill-health, which leads to more medical bills, and more stress. It’s a vicious cycle.
I urge MND to waive the rental fees of all public housing residents for a minimum of 6 months to a year. Even though HDB does provide additional subsidies when appeal letters are sent, the stress of having to go to see an MP, and uncertainty about outcomes is still a stressful process. A blanket waiver of rent for at least 6 months will give much needed reprieve to these families who live on the brink.
Mr Chairman Sir, land scarcity in Singapore is a fact of life. Amidst increased public pressure and attention on Inequality, we need to provide better public rental housing in order to rehabilitate low-income families more effectively.
How can we do so without incurring larger costs?
On one hand we have large families in small rental flats, struggling with overcrowding. Single mothers and fathers are struggling to find care so they can go out to work.
And on the other hand, we have isolated elderly in HDB flats, suffering loneliness, with rising risk of elderly suicide.
We can kill two birds with one stone, by putting isolated elderly and single parent families together, to optimise resources for better social outcomes.
The cost savings from building new rental flats can be used instead as rent paid out to financially challenged and isolated elderly flat-owners, if they are willing to open up their homes to single parents and their children.
Such a program would provide a larger housing supply without incurring more building costs, improve retirement adequacy for poor seniors, reduce their social isolation, as well as provide informal care and support for the children and youth of single parents.
Chairman, in Mandarin.
I urge MND to consider this mutual Care Rental program, as an opt-in program and to pilot with elderly who are willing. Implementation is bound to be challenging, as personality dynamics will play a big part in the success of such a program. Hence getting a good match is critical. And it is key that the matching of elderly to families is done socially and not purely administratively.
I believe by having close collaboration amongst the ComLink agencies on the ground on such an initiative, we can see much improved social outcomes, with less costs, to optimise the care and well-being of our people.
Watch the speech here.