By Nur Dianah Suhaimi
One and a half to two years - that is the current waiting time for an HDB rental flat.
But with new eligibility rules kicking in, the Housing Board hopes to halve that time and shorten the queue by a third.
Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said yesterday that the more stringent rules - which he had announced in Parliament last Friday - will allow the truly deserving cases to be allocated flats earlier.
Under the new rules, which kicked in last Friday, those who previously owned private property, or whose children own private property, will be excluded.
An applicant will also be rejected if he has a child who owns an HDB flat with a spare room.
Mr Mah said the HDB is prepared to conduct additional checks even if it involves extra work and more time to process a rental flat application.
'In the interest of fairness and in the interest of providing roofs over the heads of those who are more desperate, I think the additional workload is something that HDB will have to do,' he said on the sidelines of a grassroots event yesterday.
The HDB will also be prioritising the more desperate and needy cases.
Applications for HDB rental flats are not on a first-come, first-served basis, unlike the home ownership system, he said.
'For the rental flats, we want to be more specific about each case because the number of flats is limited. It is a question of whether you have a roof over your head or you don't,' he said.
There are currently about 4,550 applicants. While 300 join the list each month, only about 150 people return flats in the same period.
To meet the increased demand, HDB will also ramp up its current stock of rental flats from 42,800 to 49,860 by end-2011.
Demand has been on the rise. In its 2006 financial year, the HDB received 5,643 applications. The following year, that number rose to 5,970.
Rates for rental flats range from $26 to $205 for a one-roomer and $44 to $275 for a two-roomer, depending on household income and other factors.
The flats are reserved for needy, low-income families that cannot afford to buy a home or pay market rates.
However, Mr Mah assured the public that those who may not qualify under the new criteria but are truly in need will be given help.
'Even though you do not fulfil the criteria, if you make an appeal through your MP, we will look at your case,' he said.
'Rules generally cover most people. But sometimes, there can be exceptions,' he said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on February 08, 2009.