Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shorter wait for rental flats

The average waiting time for an HDB rental flat has fallen from 21 months early last year to 13 months today. The number of applicants in the queue for a rental flat, meanwhile, has fallen from 4,550 in February last year to 3,465.

This is largely a result of the stricter eligibility criteria for rental flats which came into force last February, HDB’s deputy director for rental housing Mike Chan told The Sunday Times.

Under the tightened rules, those who previously owned private property, or whose children own private property, are not allowed to apply for a rental flat.

An applicant is also rejected if he has a child who owns an HDB flat with a spare room.

HDB has 42,000 flats under the public rental scheme. Another 7,500 flats will be added over the next three years.

The stricter criteria have helped ’sieve out those who have alternative housing options’ and ensure that these flats go to those who need them most, said Mr Chan.

Other safeguards to prevent abuse of rental flats include a rule that bars those who have sold their HDB flats in the open market from applying for a rental flat from HDB for 30 months after the date of sale. Some sellers, said Mr Chan, make profits from the sale of the flats.

But those facing ‘genuine financial hardship’ and with nowhere to live after selling their flats are given the flexibility they deserve, he said. On average, HDB waives the 30-month debarment requirement ‘for a few cases every month’.

But those in the rental queue who do not have the option of staying temporarily with their relatives or friends may be given ‘interim rental housing’ on a case-by-case basis. Under the scheme, they can rent a room at below market rates.

Various help schemes are also available for HDB lessees who run into financial difficulties. Short-term measures such as a reduced repayment scheme are in place.

If these are not enough, lessees are advised to seek longer-term and more sustainable solutions.

Source: Sunday Times, 31 Jan 2010

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