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Govt mulls extending housing grants to elderly parents

The Government will consider extending grants to parents who wish to live nearer their children said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, at a dialogue on public housing.

SINGAPORE: The Government is mulling a move to extend housing grants to elderly Singaporeans who wish to buy a resale flat nearer to their children. Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee revealed this at a third housing conversation on Thursday (June 19), aimed at gathering views on helping extended families live together, or close by. 

Currently, only first-timers purchasing resale flats and executive condominiums are eligible for grants. At an earlier dialogue last week, participants spoke about extending grants to second-time home buyers when they buy a resale flat near their parents. The question of whether this should apply to elderly parents as well was put to 51 seniors, all with children above the age of 21. 

Most at the session agreed that grants should be given to parents too, should they buy a resale flat near their children. They also said that the grants should be more than S$30,000, citing higher prices for resale flats, compared to new (Build-to-Order) flats, as well as a resale levy that has to be paid, when they purchase a second flat from the Housing and Development Board. 

Those at the housing conversation also touched on how close they wish to live to their children. Many said they would prefer to live near, but not necessarily with their children.

Participant Dr Rosalind Lui explained: "I think staying in the same flat will be quite challenging. Sometimes we can be very close, but we still need the space and privacy. As the Chinese saying goes: Xian jian rong yi, xian chu nan -- it is very easy to meet up, to have that cordial relationship like friends, but to stay together, it is too close, and there is friction."

But she said she still prefers to stay near her only child, so in future, when her son and daughter-in-law return home from a busy day at work, they can "enjoy mummy's cooking".

57-year-old Saadiah Waras echoed the sentiment, saying she would be able to provide more support if she lives near her children, and would be able to see them more frequently. "I only have three children, so I want to be close to them. For example, my son who lives across the street -- I help to look after his children on the weekends. But I want to have my own home. I am very 'scared' about the size of the flat." 

Seniors also said they would prefer to live near their children, should they need to be cared for themselves.

Commenting on the dialogue, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said: "While one may expect older Singaporeans to want to live together with their children in the same flat, I think today's session shows that they are also very practical. MND will seriously consider the suggestions raised by many of the participants today to provide grants for elderly Singaporeans who wish to buy a resale flat nearer to their children."

Mr Lee also shared that some fifty 3-Generation (3GEN) flats will be put on offer in the upcoming Tampines North BTO project. The project is expected to be launched in the later part of the year. Some 368 3GEN flats have put up for sale since the first batch was introduced in September 2013.

The final housing conversation session will be held on July 15 and involve participants from different age groups.

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