Tuesday, September 22, 2009

HDB's ethnic quota policy needs tweak

THE Housing Board's ethnic integration policy needs tweaking if it is to better promote racial integration and harmony. HDB's website states that the status of ethnic changes is updated on the first day of each month and is 'applicable for resale applications submitted in the current month'.

Many flats change hands daily and the actual ethnic ratio will fluctuate accordingly. Fixing the quota for an entire month and making it known only on the first day of the month is convenient for the HDB, but not for buyers and sellers as it creates the following problems:

The buyer or agent spends days, weeks or even months to secure a resale flat, only to find the quota has been reached on the first day of the following month. Waiting another month and hoping the ethnic proportions will allow the deal to go through is not an option as there is no guarantee it will be so. The whole cycle of hunting and bargaining will restart and the situation is still subject to change on a monthly basis.

There could be many flats sold by an ethnic group in a given month, but buyers belonging to the same ethnic group could be restricted from buying until the ethnic ratio is revised in subsequent months. This problem is particularly acute when a minority ethnic group is involved.

There is no forward notice of any possible changes to the proportion status until the first day of the month. A buyer could suddenly find himself ineligible to buy the next day.

The current system groups any non-Chinese and non-Malay under 'Indian/Others'. That means foreign talent will have to share the allotment with Indians.

The first three problems can be easily addressed by technology. The computer system should be able to update the ethnic proportions more regularly, say, on the first and 15th of the month.

This will better reflect the actual situation and help buyers make appropriate decisions. The revised quotas will remain applicable for four weeks, similar to the present system, to give buyers sufficient time to obtain loans and file their applications.

The fourth problem, regarding the 'Indian/Others' group, will grow as more foreigners settle here.

The Government should take care of their housing needs by allotting a bigger pie to the 'Indian/Others' group or having a separate allotment for 'Others'.

Source, Straits Times, 22 Sep 2009

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