Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Under 5% of HDB flats owned by PRs

PERMANENT residents occupy less than 5 per cent of all Housing Board flats, and are living in estates across the island.

Nevertheless, the Government will keep an eye on the situation to ensure that no PR and foreigner enclaves develop

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said this when responding to Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC).

Dr Lim wanted to know the distribution of PRs across Housing Board estates, as well as whether the Government would consider expanding the current ethnic quota scheme to include PRs.

Mr Mah said PRs were already subjected to the same rules as Singaporeans, and that includes the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP).

'The EIP was introduced to achieve a healthy racial mix in HDB estates and prevent the formation of ethnic enclaves, regardless of whether they are citizens or PRs,' he said. As of June 30 this year, PRs owned 42,800 flats - or just 4.9 per cent of the nearly 900,000 HDB flats islandwide.

While public housing policies are for the benefit of Singaporeans, Mr Mah stressed that PRs also needed a place to live: 'PR families are not eligible for housing subsidies that Singaporeans enjoy. They are not allowed to buy a new flat from HDB or enjoy any housing grant. However, PRs need to have a home in Singapore. Therefore, they are allowed to buy properties from the open market, including HDB resale flats.'

He was not the only minister to address the issue. Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said separately that his ministry and the National Development Ministry would discuss the matter.

It was government policy to ensure there were no ethnic ghettoes here, Dr Balakrishnan added when replying to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC).

PRs were also the focus for Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng. He was asked by opposition MP Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir) about the number of new PRs here since 2000.

Mr Wong said an average of 74,500 PR applications were made each year from 2000 to last year. Of these, about 46,300 became PRs. At the same time, about 2,200 PRs renounce their status each year.

Mr Wong said the number applying for PR status grew steadily in recent years due to the growing economy and the need to make up for Singapore's flagging birth rate.

Still, most foreigners were either workers or students here on a temporary basis - and would leave once their services were not needed, or when their studies ended.

As of June this year, there were 1.253 million non-residents, but only 533,000 PRs. But the Government was mindful of the concerns of locals, he said, adding: 'We'll manage the inflow of immigrants, taking into account how quickly our society can absorb and integrate these new immigrants without diluting our national identity or weakening our social cohesion. Such a sustained and calibrated inflow of immigrants would ensure that Singaporean benefit from immigration in the long term.

Source, Straits Times, 24 November 2009

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