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Govt may tweak quota system to help married couples live near their parents

Tweaking the quota system is one option the government could look into to improve the chances of those hoping to live near their parents.

SINGAPORE: Tweaking the quota system is one option the government could look into to improve the chances of those hoping to live near their parents.

Minister of State Mohamad Maliki Osman said this at the second housing conversation session on Saturday which aims to find out what more can be done to help extended families live together or close by.

He said another area is to consider extending grants to second-time home buyers purchasing HDB resale flats near their parents.

Thirty-six married participants attended the second housing conversation.

About a third said they were in favour of giving absolute priority to those hoping to buy a new flat near their parents.

32-year-old Arina Tan, who has a one-year-old daughter, said: "We had been balloting for a flat near our parents for four times but we weren't able to get it. For the fifth time, we tried a further place at Yishun where the government has opened up more flats at the non-mature estates. We were able to get it.

“We have our flat in Yishun but we still stay weekdays at my in-laws place because of the baby. She can take care of her and we do not need to travel every day from Yishun to Jurong."

A week ago, courting couples gave a resounding "no" when asked if they were in favour of giving absolute priority to those hoping to buy a new flat near their parents.

To prevent people from abusing the system, some participants said there should be conditions if absolute priority is given such as extending the Minimum Occupation Period from five, to 10 years.

However, some also acknowledged the challenges of giving absolute priority.

"If somebody were to have absolute priority, then there would be another group that wouldn't have anything at all so I think it's a bit difficult," said Joewind Han.

About half of the participants also said while they did not want absolute priority, they were in favour of more priority being given.

One option could be to tweak the quota system instead.

Dr Maliki said: "As we try to look at ways to enhance the opportunities for young couples to live near their parents, one option is to see how best we can tweak at the quota system. Today, we have about 85 per cent of BTO flats allocated to first-timers, 15 per cent to second-timers.

"One option is if you want to really look at ways to enhance the possibility, or increase the chances of second-timers who want to live near their parents, maybe we can set aside a quota within perhaps that 15 per cent. They can possibly look at how their chances can be better met. But nonetheless, we are still exploring some of these ideas."

Participants also discussed whether second-time home buyers should get housing grants when buying a resale flat near their parents.

Currently, first time home buyers purchasing a resale flat get a S$30,000 CPF Housing Grant, but this goes up to S$40,000 when they buy a resale flat to live together with, or near their parents.

Some had suggested that the additional S$10,000 be given to both first and second-timers.

Dr Maliki said: "This is a significant shift when we talk about giving grants to second-timers but I think they recognise the proposal is to give grants to those wanting to live near their parents and this is for those who did not get to exercise that option when they bought their first flat so I think it's quite a rational proposition.

"That's something that we can try to consider how else we can facilitate couples who have moved on to their next phase of their life stage to live near their parents. If it means that a grant can incentivise that, a grant can facilitate that, we will be prepared to consider that."

Participants were also split when asked if the government should continue building more Three-Generation (3Gen) flats.

Some said while they were in favour of having more 3Gen flats built, they also hoped some design improvements could be made.

"As a concept, it's great but I think if the useable space, the common spaces are not tweaked well, it could just lead to hot housing," said Goh Ling Pin.

"There could be extra conflict within the house like a lot of people crammed within a smaller space might not fulfil the purpose of helping a family get along," Goh added.

His wife Christine Choo said: "We are living with my father-in-law and I believe that he will like to have his own privacy as well, and for us to have our own privacy, but yet at the same time we want to live together so having a dual-key system where he's just next door and we're under one roof and for us to take care of the financing, would be very helpful for elderly who is also a retiree."

Dr Maliki said: "We're looking at the needs, the profile of different family types, size commensurate with the size of the family too. We want to make it optimal for families when they use the spaces."

Dr Maliki said how the first batch of 3Gen flats in Yishun pans out will have to be observed before fine-tuning designs.

The next housing conversation session is on June 19 and will target seniors with children above 21.

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