Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HDB flats not meant to be used as source of funds: Mah

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan has stressed that HDB flats are not meant to be used as a source of funds for business or other uses.

He said this a day after changes were made to the Housing and Development Act, to prevent owners from using their flats as collaterals to settle debts with moneylenders.

Mr Mah said: “The HDB flat is not meant to be used as a source of funds for business. “The whole scheme was designed to provide affordable, good quality home for them, not to use that as a collateral or sources of funds for other uses whether it is for business, or other things.

“Can you imagine if people are allowed to raise funds from flats, what kind of things they are going to use for? Some will be using it for business. But I can tell there will be many who would not be using that for legitimate business.

“They will be using it for other things. They may even use it to go to the casinos, for example. And then what happens? They lose their money and then they lose their flats. They lose their homes, the roofs over their heads, where will they stay? Where will be their children stay?

“So we decided to be prudent, as far as HDB flats are concerned. If you want to raise funds for businesses, for other things, entrepreneurship, look for other sources for funds.”

The amendments were passed under the “certificate of urgency” in Parliament on July 19.

Any contract using an HDB flat as a security or collateral for any debt other than as mortgage to finance the purchase of the flat will be null and void.

Mr Mah stressed that the gap has to be plugged immediately to prevent moneylenders from lodging future caveats against HDB flats.

“The number of caveats has gone up sharply, and if you don’t move fast, the numbers will keep going up and more and more people will be placed in this position of putting their flats as risk and possibly being homeless.

“So I think that is something obviously not in the interest of the HDB flat owners themselves. So that’s the reason why I decided to move on the certificate of urgency.

“This practice of agents and moneylenders colluding to get people to borrow and use their flats as collateral, I think that practice, will stop because they will no longer be legal.”

He added there have been indeed many cases where flats owners had fallen into serious difficulties after they sold their flats, as a result of the inability to repay loans.

Mr Mah was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of his ministry’s joint scholarship ceremony Tuesday morning.

He presented scholarships to 39 undergraduates and 12 graduate students.

The scholars come from a spectrum of specialisations, including environmental engineering and environmental biology. Some of them will be exploring new fields of study, such as aquaculture, agricultural economics and food technology.

38-year-old Kelvin Ang, who will be taking up a Masters in Sustainable Heritage at the University College London, said: “This scholarship will give me an opportunity to learn from the best practices from Europe in terms of heritage. So if I can have those skills and bring them back to Singapore and apply them here, I think there’s a better future for heritage buildings.”

19-year-old Lee Si Min will be taking up an engineering degree course at the University of Cambridge. She’ll join the Building and Construction Authority when she completes her studies.

Ms Lee said: “I am very interested in how the designs of buildings are made to be safe and sustainable. There are many projects coming up in the MND, for example, the Tianjin Eco-city and I am very interested in them. I hope to play a part and contribute to the society in this manner.”

Source: Channel News Asia, 20 Jul 2010

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