Monday, June 7, 2010

Share a flat

More than 600 families given roof over their heads under HDB scheme

FAMILIES down on their luck have been able to get a roof over their heads through a year-old Housing Board scheme to find them interim housing.

More than 600 families from a list of 1,830 have found rental homes for the short term in flats in older districts, which are slated for demolition.

Many of the tenants are families in financial difficulties, like Mr Muhammad, a logistics supervisor and sole breadwinner who could not keep up with payments on a four-room resale flat he bought in 2005.

In April last year, he sold his flat in Yishun and moved into his sister-in-law's home.

With the addition of his family of four, there were 12 people in her four-room flat, and his nephews had to sleep on mattresses in the living room.

'I felt embarrassed so I kept looking for another place to stay,' said Mr Muhammad, 49, who did not want to give his full name.

The father of a daughter, 15, and son, 11, could not front the cash for a three- room resale flat and was not eligible for a rental flat as he was earning more than $1,500 a month.

The housing authority offered him another option in an Interim Rental Housing (IRH) three-room flat in Block 28, Toa Payoh Lorong 6. The block is scheduled to be knocked down in a few years' time under the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

The initiative seeks to help families 'facing a transition in their housing arrangement', said the HDB: In other words, those who need temporary shelter while they work towards arranging longer-term accommodation.

Of the 600 families, 87 have moved on, either to permanent rental housing or their own flats.

Households that qualify include those already in the rental queue but in urgent need of shelter, and households in financial hardship downgrading to smaller flats which are still being built.

Households which qualify for the scheme sign a renewable six-month contract and are able to move into their temporary homes within a month.

The IRH units in Toa Payoh, Havelock Road and Bedok South will be managed for three years by EM Services.

Rent is kept low by having two families share one three-room flat, which normally rents for about $1,200 a month.

Mr Muhammad, his homemaker wife and two children moved in at the end of March, paying $400 for one room in the flat.

The other family, Madam Rasidah Ali, 39, her husband and daughter, moved in about two months later. They, too, had chalked up arrears on a flat in Yishun, and are waiting for a new two-room flat, which will be ready in two years.

Neither family had a say in their choice of flatmates but EM Services tries to pair families of similar backgrounds, HDB explained.

Mr Muhammad said he had heard about flatmates on the scheme quarrelling, but the two families in his flat have been getting along.

Madam Rasidah, a cook in a fast-food restaurant, became friends with Mr Muhammad's wife, who looks after her 11-year-old daughter while she is at work.

Both families also share groceries and compromise on other matters such as the use of the bathroom, especially during 'the peak period' on weekday mornings.

'It was awkward initially but we have to get along,' Madam Rasidah said.

'You can say I'm quite lucky to get a good family.'

Mr Muhammad, who is saving up to buy a flat, said: 'Having your own home is more comfortable and convenient, but I don't know how long I will have to wait before I can buy my own place.

'At least I am no longer troubling my sister-in-law.'

Source: Straits Times, 7 Jun 2010

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