Married couple's ideas for housing

SINGAPORE - A new quota for Build-to-Order (BTO) flats and extending grants to second-timers purchasing resale flats close to their parents - these were some of the ideas floated by married couples at a housing dialogue yesterday at the National Library.

The first idea, where a certain number of BTO flats will be set aside for couples who buy with or near their parents, surfaced as a more palatable alternative to giving them "absolute priority".

The idea of "absolute priority", which was first floated by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a blog post last month, would do away with balloting for those who buy BTO flats in the same Housing Board estate as their parents. This guarantees them a flat.

Some participants at the dialogue felt that this would make it unfair for others who do not have parents already living in their choice estate.

Instead, setting aside a quota would not only give those who want to be close to their parents a better chance of securing a flat, but would also not deny others an opportunity to get a flat.

Health-care administrator Kristen Guo and her husband managed to secure a BTO flat in Bedok close to his parents, but the couple feel that the system should be fair and not overly prioritise living close to one's family.

"What about those who don't want to be close to their parents?" said Ms Guo, 28.

Yesterday's dialogue was the second of three Housing Conversations this month organised by the Ministry of National Development to engage Singaporeans on the topic of how housing policies can help draw families closer together.

The participants, aged 26 to 48, comprised 13 married couples and another 10 who came without their spouses. The first session on June 7 featured young courting couples.

Yesterday, the older married couples also discussed the idea of extending a resale flat housing grant for living with or close to one's parents to second-timers.

The $10,000 grant is currently applicable only to first-timers who wish to buy a resale flat with or close to their parents.

Extending the grant would help make it easier for couples who already have a flat, to move closer to their parents should they wish to.

Ms Arina Tan and her husband are one such couple who would stand to benefit from this.

"It would make getting a resale flat near my in-laws so much easier," said Ms Tan, a 29-year-old purchaser in the marine industry, who is married to IT engineer Robin Lim, 32.

The couple, who have a one-year-old daughter, balloted unsuccessfully for four BTO flats in Jurong.

They had hoped to secure a flat there so that Mr Lim's mother, who lives in the area, could help with babysitting during the day while they are working.

They ended up settling for a BTO flat in Yishun in January, but stay with Mr Lim's mother on weekdays because of childcare.

Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman, who also attended the discussion, said these suggestions were "rational propositions" worth exploring.

He added that they might help strike a balance when it comes to giving some groups priorities over others.

"One of the things we recognise in terms of giving priorities... it's always a challenge, because giving priority to one group means less priority to another group."

The participants also discussed their preferred living arrangements vis-a-vis their parents. About two-thirds of them said they wanted to live in the same neighbourhood as their parents.

In the previous week's session, the participants, all young couples, mostly said they would prefer to live away from their parents for independence and privacy.

This echoes an ongoing online survey by MND, which shows that, as of last Thursday, 24 per cent of courting couples plan to live with their parents, while 42 per cent of married couples actually do so.

The next dialogue involving senior citizens with children above the age of 21 will take place on Thursday.


This article was first published on June 15, 2014.
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