HDB scheme helps house divorcees and widows

Divorced administration clerk Hui San San, 38, will finally have her own bed in 2017.

For the last four years, she has shared a queen-sized one with her two pre-teen daughters. The trio squeeze into one bedroom in the three-roomer belonging to Madam Hui's parents in Jurong West.

They will finally have some breathing room when she collects the keys to a brand new three-room flat in Sembawang in 2017.

She is among a small number who have benefited from a year-long scheme to help the less privileged get new flats.

The Housing Board's Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers (Divorced/Widowed Parents) allocates 5 per cent of new two- and three-roomers in non-mature estates to divorced or widowed persons with children under 16 years old. Previously, there were fewer flats available for second-timers.

However, since its launch last May, only 59 divorcees and two widows have applied for and got a flat, according to the HDB.

The board added that in its most recent Build-To-Order exercise alone, about 60 flats had been set aside.

While the number of eligible flats varies with each launch, experts say it is evident that the scheme is under-subscribed.

"It's a great programme by the Housing Board, but perhaps people don't know about the scheme, or have too much pride or too little cash to apply for a flat," said Century 21 chief executive Ku Swee Yong.

Considering that the scheme is targeted at a niche group, the response so far is in line with expectations, said Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development.

This is because divorcees and widows may have retained their matrimonial home or are renting in the open market.

Some may prefer living in mature estates while others stay with relatives. Others may even enjoy first-timer privileges, he said in an e-mail to The Straits Times.

Not so for Madam Hui.

"I can't stay with my parents forever," she said.

Her daughters, who are 13 and 10, are excited about the new flat, having selected its unit number and floor.

But the long construction period makes it hard for Madam Hui to look forward to it.

"Many things can happen in four years," she said.

"So I don't want to think so far ahead - you never know what might happen."


This article was published on April 14 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.