Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'Ease rental rules' for divorced mums

THE Housing Board needs to be more flexible when renting flats to divorced women with children, said Madam Halimah Yacob (Jurong GRC) yesterday.

She was speaking to The Straits Times after statistics released yesterday showed the HDB waived the eligibility criteria for renting flats for only a handful of divorced women with children last year

In all, 649 had registered for homes but only 28 among them had the eligibility criteria waived.

Eventually, 200 were allocated rental flats, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in a written reply to Parliament.

However, owing to the limited supply of rental flats, not all of them are due for allocation yet, said Mr Mah.

He gave the response to Madam Halimah who had asked earlier, among other things, how many of these women had applied to rent flats and were successful.

Her beef is with an existing rule which states that rental flat-seekers must not have sold an HDB flat or private property in the last 30 months.

However, in a divorce, the jointly owned flat is usually sold when the man and woman go their separate ways, a move that disqualifies them from applying for a rental home.

At the same time, these women often cannot afford to buy another flat. They can stay with family members, like a married brother or sister, but living in crowded conditions often causes conflict.

'One told me that she and her three children live in the living room of her brother's flat,' said Madam Halimah.

Also, most people do not rent flats to women with children, she added.

'Many of them are very desperate because they have young children to look after,' she said, adding that she had received about 30 requests for help from these women in the last few months.

In a separate written reply, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan said 57 per cent of the 6,328 civil divorce suits filed last year involved children younger than 21.

Detailed statistics on their ages and which parent had custody are unavailable, he added.

For Muslim divorces, 66 per cent of the 1,696 divorce suits involved children under the age of 21.

And in 62 per cent or 703 of the cases, the women get custody. For the rest, custody either went to the father or to both parents.

On average, the cases involve two children and the average age of each child is 11 years.

Source: Straits Times, 24 November 2009

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