Few married couples taking up rental flats

PHOTO: Few married couples taking up rental flats

Temporary Housing Board rental flats for married couples continued to receive a lukewarm response last month despite applications opening up to those without children.

Figures given by the HDB showed that there were just 266 applications from married couples for 1,010 units in April - a subscription rate of 26 per cent.

Couples without children were able to apply for the first time, and they made up slightly over half this number, or 163.

Located in mature estates and priced at below market rates, these rental flats fall under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS), which allows married couples to rent existing HDB flats while waiting for their new flats to be built.

"It looks like those intending to get married would prefer to have a brand new home to start off their new life together; this explains the lukewarm take-up," said ERA key executive officer Eugene Lim.

He said that some couples waiting for new build-to-order (BTO) flats may not qualify for the scheme as they are not yet married. Others, he said, would rather not spend money on rent.

The very first PPHS round was held in January. Of the 212 eligible applications submitted then, 140 couples went on to select their preferred flats from HDB's stock of 1,150 units.

Mr Lim noted that the scheme was not as popular as expected. Up to 65 per cent of the initial 1,150 flats are potentially still available even after two rounds of applications. The flats are primarily those vacated under the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme and are not needed immediately for redevelopment.

These are three- to five-room units in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Jurong West and Queenstown. They are priced at $800 to $1,900 a month, below the market rates of $1,500 to $3,300 for similar flats.

But some of those who applied still feel they are too expensive.

Mr Noramzar Ridhwan Shaharuddin, 25, is staying with his in-laws, together with his wife and five-month-old daughter. He estimates it could cost about $25,000 to rent a four-room flat until their BTO home is ready in 2015. "That's an amount we could otherwise save," said Mr Noramzar, who is looking for a job. "If this is interim housing, how do you justify that price?"

Those who did not apply said they prefer to save money by staying with relatives.

Civil servant Jet Ng, 27, is living with his wife and five-month-old daughter at his parents' place until their BTO flat is ready. He said: "It's not worth the hassle of furnishing the (rental) flat."

Meanwhile, an HDB spokesman told The Straits Times it is "premature to draw any definitive conclusion" on the scheme's impact so far. "The PPHS provides an affordable housing option for first-timer families who wish to rent a flat while waiting for their new flat to be completed. Some families may have other options available to them," she added.


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