Ideal to have flat first and then baby, say couples

Mr Loi, a church worker, with his wife Chiam Mei Si, 32, and their sons Zhen Yi, three, and Zhen An, 101/2 months. Zhen Yi was conceived when the couple were living with Mr Loi's parents after their marriage.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

It does not take much space to have sex, but it would be ideal to have their own homes to raise children, said young Singaporean couples.

That said, some who did live with their parents - and had babies - while waiting for their own homes, acknowledged that there could be benefits to such an arrangement.

They were responding to a comment by Mrs Josephine Teo, when answering an interview question on whether young people are deterred from having children earlier because they do not yet have their flats.

"You need a very small space to have sex," replied the Senior Minister of State in charge of population, suggesting that couples do not have to wait until they have their homes to begin trying for children.

In a Facebook post last night, Ms Teo said that "an honest conversation" is needed on how the society can support millennial families.

"But if a married couple waits too long to start a family, we could end up with a house with no children to share it with."

However, in Singapore, many equate flat ownership with starting a family. An ST online poll found that of the 16,880 responses, 93 per cent said a flat should come first.

The young couples interviewed yesterday said they preferred to live on their own before having babies. Some said they want to do so to avoid possible conflict with their parents or in-laws in raising children.

Ms Chloe Tang, 27, who is getting married next month, said she and her fiance are putting plans to conceive on hold, until they have their own place. They will be living with his parents as their flat applications over the last two years were unsuccessful. "To build a family, the very first thing I will think of is to have a house. I would also want my own privacy," said the IT analyst.

Some young people said they did not mind living with their parents for the short term, although moving out would still be a priority.

Civil servant Cherie Teo, 29, said: "It's helpful to have family support in the early stages of being a new mother because it's physically tiring."

She and her husband, who have a one-year-old son, lived with their parents for about two years before moving to their executive condominium this year. "Having your own space is important - you need to learn to take care of yourself, live with your spouse - before you can really raise a child," she said.

But Mr Loi Heok Gam, 34, a church worker who married in 2013, said he agreed with the spirit of what Mrs Teo said. His wife conceived during the nine months they were living with his parents that year.

"We need a bit more faith and courage to start families. You can't always wait for everything to work out perfectly according to plan."

They later rented a flat while waiting to move to their flat in January last year as they wanted to raise their sons - now aged three and 101/2 months - on their own.

Recognising such wishes, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said last week that couples can look forward to a shorter waiting period of two to three years, from three to four years now, for Build-To-Order flats.Since 2013, 365 babies have been born to couples living in temporary public housing as they waited for their new flats to be completed. There are about 1,900 such flats now.

This article was first published on Oct 13, 2016.
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