ABOUT 10 private estate households in Geylang Serai have sought financial or job-related assistance this year - something that was once almost unheard of.
They have approached grassroots organisations in the area, in a development that flies in the face of the common assumption that people in HDB flats are the ones who need government help.
"Five years ago, there were zero such cases," said Mr Eric Wong, who chairs Geylang Serai's citizens' consultative committee.
One factor fuelling the increase may be the small but growing group of elderly people who are unwilling to sell their private homes but require assistance and handouts from the Government.
Mr Wong gave the example of a couple in their 70s whose electricity supply was almost cut off because they owed more than $1,000 to Singapore Power. The situation was especially dire as the wife had suffered a stroke and required expensive care.
Now they have successfully applied to pay the outstanding utility bills in monthly instalments. Over the years, the childless couple had used up their Central Provident Fund savings to pay for their private property, which is worth more than $1 million.
"A permanent solution is to downgrade to a smaller place but the husband is currently not in the right mindset to sell the property," said Mr Wong. "We will let him work through his sums and over time he will understand the situation."
Forty per cent of Geylang Serai's 58,000 residents live in private estates. Many elderly people in landed homes bought them years ago when properties were cheaper, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Halimah Yacob.
Now retired, they either have no steady income or do not have enough coming in to keep up with the cost of living.
"One solution is for them to downgrade to a flat so that they can use the proceeds from the sale for their daily needs," added the MP for Jurong GRC.