Living closer: Journey between homes is too long

SINGAPORE - They have just moved into a brand new four-room flat in Yishun, but they call it their weekend home.

Married for two years, with a little girl who is turning one soon, Madam Arina Tan, 29, a purchaser, spends the weekdays at her in-law's four-room Lakeside flat.

Her in-laws help watch the baby while she and her husband are at work.

The 50-minute journey on the MRT and bus from her in-laws' place to their home deters them from making the daily trip.

Her husband, Mr Robin Lim, 32, an engineer, said they had considered buying a Jurong East resale flat.

He said: "It is a developed estate, so prices were as high as $500,000 for a four-room flat. As a young couple, we couldn't fork out that amount of money."

They balloted four times for a flat, mostly in Boon Lay, but had no luck.

Eventually, they applied for Yishun in 2010 and were successful, paying $270,000 for their flat.

Before moving in, they were living with his parents.

Madam Tan said: "We have a new home, but it doesn't feel like it. It's troublesome because we have one set of clothes and baby necessities in each home."

The couple's experience has led them to suggest absolute priority when it comes to getting a flat near their parents, an idea that was supported by several participants in the housing conversation event.


During previous discussions with courting couples, most participants were against absolute priority because it gave children with parents living in mature estates an unfair advantage.

This time, a participant suggested that the absolute priority could be conditional, by increasing the minimum occupational period to 10 years to support those who genuinely wish to live near their parents.

For the young couple, they will continue living with the in-laws until their daughter gets older.

Madam Tan said: "Of course we thought of options such as childcare centres, but she still is too young. So for now, we have no choice but to stick to this arrangement."

They want parents and privacy

Madam Christine Choo, 31, noticed that her father-in-law left the flat whenever she and her husband were at home.

She was touched that he wanted to give them privacy, but she felt bad, especially because the retiree, 79, would go out even if it was raining.

"For both of us, family values are very important. So we decided to stay with my father-in-law. My parents are much younger and can take care of themselves," said Madam Choo, the oldest of four children. She is a full-time student.

Her husband, Mr Goh Ling Pin, 35, a teacher, is an only son. The couple have been married for four years with no children and are living with Mr Goh's father in a 1,400 sq ft executive apartment in Sengkang.

While it was a shared decision to live with Mr Goh's father, they do long for more privacy.

Mr Goh said: "We have enough space (in the flat), but it's also about different habits. When we have kids later, there could also be a difference in parenting style.

"We even considered renovating the place so that it would be like two different spaces, with two kitchens, but it was not feasible."


The couple was one of the few exceptions at the Housing Conversation, where most hoped to live near their parents, but not necessarily with them.

Mr Goh, like several participants, asked for a dual-key apartment, rather than a three-generation flat, which many found too small.

In response, Minister of State for National Development, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, who was at the event, said that the multi-generation priority scheme, which allows parents and married children to apply for two units at the same build-to-order project, was similar to a dual-key unit.

The couple said that if they ever decide to move, they would move to Ang Mo Kio, to be near Madam Choo's parents.

Of course, Mr Goh's father will be part of the move.

"Despite some difficulties, we are still living together. As a married couple, we should share our burdens," said Madam Choo.

This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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