Fresh Start families to get personalised support

Second-timer families on the public rental scheme, who get help to buy a new flat, will have to live in it for 20 years before they can resell it.

This is "to ensure a stable home for the children", said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday, revealing details of the Fresh Start Housing Scheme.

Families who qualify will also get personalised help even after they get the keys to their flat, he added during the parliamentary debate on his ministry's budget.

Announced last year and set to start by the end of 2016, the Fresh Start Housing Scheme aims to help public rental tenants with young children buy flats of their own.

Currently, about 1,000 families could potentially qualify, Mr Wong revealed yesterday.

The scheme will not have a large reach, but "can and will have a meaningful impact on the families we are reaching out to", he added.

To keep prices affordable, it is only for two-room Flexi flats with leases of 45 to 65 years.

Eligible families will be able to get a Housing Board concessionary loan regardless of how many such loans they have taken before.

And the previously-announced Fresh Start Housing Grant will be given in tranches. The grant will range from $31,400 for a 45-year lease to $35,000 for a 60-year or 65-year lease. Families will get $20,000 upon collecting the keys to their flat. The rest will be disbursed annually over the next five years

But to get these later tranches - and to qualify for the scheme at all - families must show commitment to making a fresh start, said Mr Wong.

They must stay employed, manage finances well, and ensure their children attend school regularly.

To track and help families in this commitment, the HDB will work with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

MSF officers will check on the families regularly, from flat application till key collection, and for five years afterwards. They will also link families up with other partners for social support, where needed.

"We will hand-hold the families closely and walk this journey with them," concluded Mr Wong.

If families face difficulties along the way, HDB will consider their circumstances and the efforts they are making to meet the conditions of the scheme, he added.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) raised concerns about stringent grant conditions.

Replied Mr Wong: "I am very mindful that the conditions should not be onerous.

"But at the same time, we are making a major move for these families by giving them another grant. So I think it's fair they must be able to show a certain level of commitment towards home ownership."

Separately, second-timer rental families will get priority for new flats from the next Build-To-Order exercise onwards. This is under the Tenants Priority Scheme, which sets aside 10 per cent of new two- and three-room flats and is currently for first-timers. In 2015, 411 two- room flats were set aside, far more than the 48 applications received.

Extending the scheme to second- timers will increase their chances of getting a flat, said Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon.

This article was first published on April 12, 2016.
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