SINGAPORE: The Step-Up CPF Housing Grant (SUHG) will be expanded as part of a slew of measures to support more lower-income families living in public housing, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Thursday (Mar 7).
"Several members have asked if MND (Ministry for National Development) can do more to help these families own their own homes," Mr Wong said in Parliament during his Committee of Supply speech.
"We have been and will continue to do so, because we believe that home ownership remains central in providing stability and progress for families."
Introduced in 2013, the SUHG of S$15,000 helps lower-income families living in subsidised two-room flats in non-mature estates buy a new three-room flats in non-mature estates.
Under the changes, the SUHG will be expanded to include three-room resale flats in the non-mature estates. The grant will also be extended to second-timer families living in public rental flats.
"The expansion of the SUHG is part of our broader efforts to help our rental families progress," said Mr Wong. "We will try our best to help more public rental households achieve their aspirations of home ownership."
EXPANSION TO FRESH START
Enhancements will also be made to the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, which aims to help second-timer families in rental flats buy a home, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling in her speech.
Under the scheme, families currently need to have at least one child below the age of 16.
As part of the enhancements, the age limit for the youngest child will be raised to 18 years old, allowing more families to benefit from the scheme, Ms Sun said.
"The age limit has been increased as children are generally still dependent on their parents to provide care, including housing, at that age," said HDB in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia.
"The age limit provides more meaningful prioritisation for families with younger children. About 100 more families will benefit from the change in age limit."
In addition, a new Fresh Start Support Programme will also be set up to support Fresh Start families, said Ms Sun. The Support Programme will be overseen by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), and run by a service provider with social work expertise. It will begin later this year.
"We have found through our experience that closer and more regular contact with families allows for early intervention to address issues that may emerge," she said. "The Support Programme will also take a holistic approach to strengthen them in various areas, such as financial management, family functioning and overall stability."
There will also be “special consideration” for selected families who applied but did not meet some of the criteria.
These families will also get more intensive support under the Support Programme, focusing on the criteria they did not meet. They will need to meet all the criteria one year before their key collection.
An estimated 80 families over the next three years will benefit from this, added Ms Sun.
There are also plans to spruce up some rental blocks built in the 1960s and 1970s, which have long central corridors and flats on both sides that limit natural ventilation and light.
"To address this, HDB will undertake works to create more openings along the corridors, by removing some flats on each floor of such blocks," Mr Wong said.
"This will provide a permanent improvement for the residents in terms of the airflow and brightness of the block."
Meanwhile, tenants who share a one-room rental flat under the Joint Singles Scheme (JSS) will soon have separate sleeping areas, with HDB deciding to make partitions available for all JSS units.
There are currently about 500 one-room flats that were purpose-built with partitions, said HDB, and about 200 more are under construction.
"We recognise that some tenants prefer some privacy. So we have tried out partitions in some of these new rental flats to create separate sleeping areas for each tenant," he said.
"The feedback from these tenants have been positive, so HDB will make available these partitions for all Joint Singles Scheme units, in both existing and new rental blocks."