Monday, March 02, 2009

Rental Flats : Obstacles to getting help....

Recently, there was this issue about rental flats being abused by people who don't need it. Here is a summary of the facts:
  • There are Singaporeans who have fallen on hard times and genuinely need a rental flat.
  • The waiting time for a rental flat is now 4 years.
  • According to Minister Mah, many applicants do not actually need this rental flat, they have sufficient savings, have children with private property who can support them etc.
  • Rules were introduced to weed out the people abusing the system and shorten the queue to about 1-2 years so that the genuine cases don't have to wait so long.

I was wondering how those people who are "genuinely in need" can actually wait 4 years in the first place but lets put this aside first. If the govt is too generous, many people will abuse these subsidized flats. If the govt is too strict, people who need help will not get it. If the govt expand the number of rental flats just to meet the demand, the govt is just throwing resources at the problem and that might lead to waste. No simple answers to this problem. What is the best tradeoff? Instead of queuing, we send people out to look for destitute...because as long as they are not destitute we can conclude they are not desperate?...Very optimal from a resource point of view, but not very humane, some people might have to go on their knees to beg a sibling they can't get along with for a room, or they might have to cut down on proper nutrition to rent a room from someone. ..and so on. Really no easy answers. Before I go deeper into the rental flats issue, lets take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Ideally, we should aim for a society in which we educate people sufficiently well, make sure they are financially literate, have good morals and put them in an economy that will provide jobs that pay people well enough to afford their own homes. We want a healthy housing market with a good mix private and public housing - that serves the needs of everyone as long as they are willing to take up full time jobs, they should be able to afford a comfortable home for their family. If we are able to get to this ideal state, then the genuine demand for rental housing will be marginal. Some of you are tempted to call this a pipe dream but we came close in the mid-90s and late 80s(?) when the demand for rental flats actually fell as affluence rose among the general population.

Times are bad and demand for rental flats started rising again. The demand is fuelled in part by the ballooning income gap which makes it hard for the lower income group to own a flat even when they take up full time jobs. There is a growing class of temporary workers whose income is not stable. The HDB prefers not to build these rental flats because the opportunity cost is high - they prefer to sell $500K flats if they can. Now due to downgrading by those in financial difficulties the queue has grown to 4 years. What does the HDB do? HDB claims that there are many people in the queue who don't really need a rental flat so they introduce a new set of criteria to disqualify people from the queue - for example those who previously owned private property, or whose children own private property, will now be excluded under the new rules. Also, an application will be rejected if the applicant has a child who owns an HDB flat with a spare room.

So think about it ...crisis hits business man loses everything sells his private house in desperation to pay his and goes to the HDB to apply for a rental flat. What do you think happens? Instead of not giving a rental flat to a person who don't needs it, it kicks a person who needs it out of the queue. You may think there is actually discretion on the part of the people who administer these will be surprised. These rules are applied mechanically and robotically leaving the person desperate ...take the case of this caller to 938Live.

hdb_rental.mp3 -
Fearing that people will abuse the help, they implement rules that turn out to be obstacles for people who really need help. There is no equal fear of people needing help not getting it. These are not isolated examples the numbers who are hindered by these rules not insignificant. You have to ask yourself if a rule that prevents someone who has sold a private property from getting a rental property actually makes sense. Why would someone wants to sell his property at these distress prices ...? HDB thinks these people are doing it to cheat the govt of help in the form of rental flats....rather than selling because their businesses have failed or they have lost their jobs and cannot service their hefty loans. Another example is the help given at the CDC is for a limited period of a few months- the idea is to prevent people from being too reliant on CDC help. However, for people who face difficulties going beyond that period, the rules apply and they are turned away. In one case reported in the papers, the needy Singaporean became desperate and turned abusive shouting at the people at the CDC. A good samaritan saw what happened and followed her home dropping $100 into her mailbox to help her to get through the month.

Given the rate that things are deteriorating, the govt has to quickly figure out how to give help to those who need it directly. There is little merit in taking a 'wait and see' reactive approach because it is quite clear where there economy is headed. The govt like it or not will eventually have to give help to a large number of Singaporeans. But if they approach the issue of helping Singaporeans the same way they did with rental flats, fearing abuse instead of being worried about those in need not getting the help and refusing to allocate more resources to solve this problem, it can only result in more pain for Singaporeans. But what is the point of delaying the help when they have to dish it out later anyway? They can't be trying to save a few million at the risk of putting more families in doesn't make sense even for the PAP.

Our exports have fallen off the cliff and I don't even have to tell you people how bad things are across almost every sector of the economy. The time for saving jobs is now over, it is now time to save people and families. You get an idea of how well the Jobs Credit Scheme has done by reading at the Straits Times - they ought to be about to find positive examples of jobs saved by this scheme to build confidence - I don't see many such stories....all I hear of is the deluge of retrenchments, and thousands of people turning up for a handful job openings at job fairs. If plan A was to save jobs, plan B has to be about saving people. The PAP govt spent $4.5B on the JCS giving money to all companies even the companies that don't need make sure that all those companies that need it also get some help. When we need to do plan B, I hope they also remember this - when you want to help as many people who need help as possible, you really have to take away all the unnecessary obstacles to this help.


Anonymous said...

PAP gahmen will do what they think is the best, not what you think is the best.

After all, where is the alternative to replace them? I don't see any since Singapore's independence till now.

Remember, in the kingdom of the blind, the one eye Jack is King.

Anonymous said...

PAP wants to monopolise housing for 95% of the population but it doesnt want to give them any choice as to whether to buy or rent a flat.

In a free market there is choice where the landlord who rents a flat does not ask for the reason why the tenant is renting it.

But PAP wants to control this because there are no other developer of affordable housing to compete with it.

However PAP will say that those rental flats are subsidized and people should not abuse them. Ok, but does it mean that the rental charge is the key consideration for the tenant? Not necessarily.

PAP makes an arbitrary connection between wanting to rent a flat and its subsidized pricing when it fact usually it is some push factors like family problems that make people want to stay apart.

PAP wants to monopolize housing yet it wants to rob the people from this basic life choice of choosing their dwellings and at a price they would like to pay.

Certainly in other countries where governments do not monopolize housing for the people, there are many choices along such directions. People can for instance choose to live in a kampong hut, what is that to the government?

PAP turns its policy of public housing not only into of modern feudalism through which it sucks blood from the people but also make such a basic life choice increasingly difficult if not impossible.

This is how caring PAP is to the people. And "Mabuk" Tan is that super sycophant in PAP that will do this nation great harm by ignoring public needs that he knows too well but is giving out a different story.

Anonymous said...

to them, spending millions to save people is a pain. but a billions to save foreign banks is no big deal to them. this is the type of gahmen our people have elected. what are people of singapore going to do to undo this mistake?

Anonymous said...


How would anyone who enriched themselves with SGD150,000 to
SGD300,000 per month from the treasury and taxpayer's money understand the real meaning of that word. Its plain and open corruption and we the citizen of Singapore deserved it. Remember how Mabok Tan lost to Chiam See Tong and got in to Parliament via the dog entrance (GRC)?

Be it Mabok Tan, LKY, SR Nathan, LHL, Ho Ching, LHY, Tony Tan, VB, KBY, Tharman, etc, Judges who are appointed eunuch, its a waste of time trying to talk to them, considering they just lost all of our national reserves and are helping themselves from our CPF money.

Now that they cannot extract much from the COE scheme, foreign workers levy, maids levy, etc, how would the PAP government extend helping hands to the destitute Singaporeans.

How dired are we? The Americans facing foreclosure have tents cities pitched around the outskirts of their concrete cities for them. Singaporeans just don't understand or are incapable of picking hints from Mr Khaw, when he suggested we move to Malaysia; which is the outskirts of Singapore.

From what we see, LKY extended SGD250 billions to the destitute American economy, for goodwill...]
Look around you, do you think Singapore is destitute enough? do you see cardboard homes sprouting in the void deck of HDB flats? do you see all the foreclosure signage around your neighbourhood?

Therefore, we are not destitute, we still want face, therefore we are not destitute.

Destitutes, if you want to move to the void deck under my HDB flat, I would gladly provide you water and electricity.

Anonymous said...

"After all, where is the alternative to replace them? I don't see any since Singapore's independence till now."

The alternative has always been there, only that in an authoritarian and despotic state the alternative is mercilessly suppressed so that only 33% are astute enough to see it.

Anonymous said...

similarly, why restrict the buy back scheme to 3rm hdb? are they saying hdb 4,5 exe flats and beyond owners shouldnt enjoy the same benefits to unlock monies for their financial needs?

the scheme is good, but why discriminate against citizens of larger homes?

Anonymous said...

I think it will kill the property market or CERTAIN homes in danger of becoming worthless or dirt cheap which then create another set of social problems etc.

Anonymous said...

Just for the knowledge of those who were born and brought up in HDB flats.

Do you know why there are no kampongs in Singapore? Have it occurred to you to even ask or ponder? Did they explain this to you through the history books?

It is all because in the 60's Lee Kuan Yew and his colleagues had such a wonderful vision of Singapore becoming a modern cosmopolitan city to rival the developed nations.

Therefore kampong dwellers were resettled and the kampongs were razed to the ground and became state lands.

As for those kampongs like Bukit Ho Swee which were difficult to evict, they somehow caught fire and burnt to the ground. Like that, the state also did'nt have to compensate the dwellers because it was "accident", "an act of god" as they say in insurance.

Today what you see as so much empty lands looking like forest, have you ever wondered why they are no-man state lands. Those in fact were the former kampongs lah.

PAP had plan, a projection that sometime in the near future like 20 or 30 years time those lands are going to fetch many times their original value.

This why when President Ong Teng Cheong asked the MOF/MAS for a report on our national reserves, he was told that it would take 200 man years to produce this report because it included among other things the value of those state lands in question here.

Anyway, when HDB first started out, flats were so affordable that some can even pay at one go for a 4 or 5 room flat with their CPF savings. In the 70's a 5 room flat was still going at around over S$30K.

But the prices have since been raised by leaps and bounds that now it would take a lifetime to pay for a 5 room flat, with a couple's CPF savings.

This has happened because in my view PAP wants to enslave you for good. When you cannot service the loans PAP will allow you grace period and that will make some people grateful to PAP and vote it into power time and again, so as to further enslave the people.

But in reality, the cost of that HDB flat has long been recouped by PAP.

Our young generation is not going to live in big luxurious bungalows like the Americans who are facing a mere 5% default rate on housing loan.

But just public housing, we are experiencing a 8% default rate already, as a recent Lucky's article pointed out.

Compared to the Americans we are living in "rabbit hutches" to borrow a term from a former Japanese PM. So why such a high burden for life.

Oh young people, it is your battle you got to fight. Recognise who your enemy is and do not let any present comfort blind you to that lifetime of struggle to come, a struggle just for a basic necessity, a roof over your heads!

Taishan said...

The fear of this or that is has always been a useful tool; firstly to get people in line. Next to extract as much as possible. Save water, save electricity ... etc... etc. Where prices paid do not reflect actual cost it is always useful to instill such vulnerability to exact as much as possible.
Rental flats.... whatever, reflect the same meanness in spirit. The PAP government has simply gone callous and cold hearted. It has lost all its earlier humility and this little show of sympathy in very desperate times is going to cost them. And cost them big !

Anonymous said...

A man called up a bible believing church and the church secretary answered the call. The man on the other end of the line said, "I’d like to speak to the head hog." The secretary replied, "That wasn’t a very nice thing to say about our beloved minister, Rev. Jones." Again the man replied, "I’d like to speak to the head hog, because I’m going to donate £75,000.00 to the church. She replied, "Hold on a moment, I think the big fat pig just walked in."

Anonymous said...

Whatever, its pay back time, not dishing out rubbish.

Anonymous said...


Have you done any studies on water,

Recently, I visited a "gov water man" home and found that his family drinking distilled water.

He told me the Gahmen water toxic and the source of high rate of Brain Cancer.

Anonymous said...

Strictly speaking all HDB flats are rental. The only difference is some of them, you pay a monthly rent and can leave the contract anytime. Other times, you pay a lump sum and have the lease for 99 years.

Anonymous said...

What do they call preachers in Germany?
German Shepherds

Anonymous said...

The water issue mentioned above reminded me of something which happened a few years ago.

I was taking a cab in Singapore and the taxi driver I chatted with was someone who worked with the PUB before. I can't remember if he was retrenched or something.

Anyway, we chatted about the newater topic. Newater was the newest issue back then, when the govt was still 'considering' whether to use the technology for the future, and it seems like the public was still very disgusted with the idea.

I was very surprised when the uncle told me, 'huh, this one you don't know only, the government already using this technology long ago without the public's knowledge. The government just want to wayang now and see how the public react only.'

This tells me something. If this taxi driver was anti-government and was lying, that's fine by me, as most taxi drivers hate the government anyway.

However, if what he told me was true, I think we do have a very scary, very sly, very kelong, and very screwed up government.

Lucky if you're reading this please take note. Maybe you can set up a section of myths/truths like this for people to discuss about.

LuckySingaporean said...

anon 11:39,

I think that 'govt man' got 'conned' by the water filter sales man. My cousin who is dirt poor saved money to buy one of those ceremic filters for his mom. Water is something that cannot be hidden. If there is something wrong with our water, any researcher from anywhere in the world can just collect a sample and publish the results. The water in Singapore is far better than most places I've been. In many cities in US, the regularly fail international standards for water safety.

Anon 10:24,

Such hearsay and rumors should not be spread without basis. Fires occur in poor areas because the people are too poor to take precautions and their homes are crammed and cluttered. If the govt wanted the land, they can acquire it through the land acquisition act or create new laws to do this. They stay within the law and change the laws if the old ones are inadequate. For that reason they never have to resort to what you say they have suggested. I don't believe it. I know of kampung farm owners who borrow animals to get more compensation from the govt.

Anonymous said...

Newater was'nt invented by Olivia Lum, her company or PAP. It was a pilot project commissioned by the PAP to a large French water management company.

They were working on this project at Bedok Reservoir for several years and those who live around that area might have remembered how the water tasted funny at times.

After a few years the PAP govt told them they can go and took over everything, equipment and the technology. Thus it became Newater. In a way it was an unethical business practice on the part of a govt to do that, but that French company had much bigger projects around the world like building dams to focus on than file a lawsuit against PAP.

This account is from insiders. Now PAP boasts that it was their invention all the way.

Anonymous said...

Haha, Lucky, I did'nt say anything; I just said "somehow caught fire" what.

Ngiam Tong Dow, former top civil servant, also said the same thing in his book about such accidental fires.

Is it wrong to say the fire is accidental, Lucky? Please don't read too much into it lah.

Anyway firemen were very busy in the 60's okay, everyday there is sound of fire engines rushing around and kampong dwellers were kept on their feet day and night fearing such accidental fires.

Anon 10:24

LuckySingaporean said...

anon 9:27,

That is the typical way and the general strategy for Singapore to do tech transfers from advanced countries and build upon it. The problem with engineering technology is that apart from the fundamental technology, the perfection of the technology takes time. I'm quite sure the French company will sue if its intellectual property is taken.

Tech transfer as a strategy is a viable one. However, how to build upon these transfer and have them translated into economic gains is harder than you think. Look at Chartered Semicon, they did a tech transfer from IBM and that let them catch close the gap....but soon enough the gap widened.

As long as Olivia Lum can build upon those initial gains into profits and market share, I think she has done well.

LuckySingaporean said...

anon 10:24,

Okay lah ...accident to clear out kampung folks. I shouldn't read more than that in your message which upon re-reading is quite carefully crafted.

PAP MATI said...


Anonymous said...

Just a side point:

Writing in the blogs just show me how useful Singlish can be in toning down a statement that might come across as too argumentative in pure English.

Words like "lah", "hor", "leh", "wah" and "whaat..." as used at the end of sentence.

These words have no synonyms in the English. They are partly Chinese words and partly local inventions.

They are useful also in conversation to connect in a friendly, down to earth way to each other. It is like dialects as compared to Mandarin; you connect better with the other party if both are speaking the same dialect.

But PAP says Singlish is wrong; and should not be used.

Don't listen to them.

Singlish won't corrupt your mastery of pure English ; it is just used on appropriate occassions to connect in a more personable tone.

Singlish originates from the instincts of our local people just like the local foods. It is part of Singapore culture but PAP which claims to promote local culture wants it destroyed.

PAP always does things this way based on cold clinical and calculative reasoning and have lost its cultural/societal instincts.

Seriously I think Singlish words such as those I mentioned above can make a contribution to the English language because of their special ability to create a personable tone. After all "kiasu" and "kiasuism" are already included in one English dictionary as reported in the news.

Anonymous said...

Eh .... in the kingdom of the blind, the one eye jack died ... 'cos the blind feared fire and did not allow the one eye to use it.

read more lah.

The water we have have too much chlorine cause it is the cheapest way to clean water. Getting a filter is good idea. And its too early to declare Newater safe .. it will take years to find out.

hi Lucky

Plan B would be to "help" as many as they can at a minimal cost. eg reverse mortgages/workfare.

Wait for plan C la.

Speaking of saving families, I would be more concerned about our "affordable" medical help. U can probably survive living in cardboard boxes (Singapore no winter) but u probably die if u get sick and cant afford treatment. Oh wait, Health Mini-star is ok cos he is not X'tian ...


Anonymous said...

Given all that have been discussed, it all boils down to an undependable government that seems to want to make things worse for the people.

Given that there is so much corruption and inefficiency of governments all over the world, may be people should consider the idea of tendering out the governing of their countries - apart from defence & other security matters - instead of allowing a group of their own citizens to take charge. This way, it is easier to check or even remove an inefficient government, it being a contracted one.

I can say more but lets have some inputs.

Kaffein said...

To Anon7:10PM, who quoted:
"Remember, in the kingdom of the blind, the one eye Jack is King."

My take for the present government is:
"In the kingdom of the blind, the one eye Jack is killed."

Don't be a sore thumb. Just follow law.


Onlooker said...

HDB home leasing that is so well implemented in the 80's, have now become the joke of the new millennium.
Every Real estate speculator know that private properties that are not really in demand by the locals should be left alone when there is such an open policy gap for hdb resales flat that can be speculated to earn so much more profit.
Where else in the world can PR gain easy financing and eligibility to own a public housing that easily.
Better yet, They do not even have to be physically here to own public leased properties that they rent out through agents.

zhu said...

if there were 3m singapore citizens,we could pay everyone $200/mth for a year at a cost of merely 7b/year. we could do this for many years, depending on how much temasek/gic depleted the reserves. $200 is mostly chicken feed to those who still have jobs - may it increase spending! $200 could also allow someone who is out of a job to eat.

Anonymous said...

It does sound ironic and absurd that in choosing to help ailing companies they are also helping those that don't really need help. No 'means testing' needed to see if such companies qualify for the help. The Government just gives away the taxpayer's money. That's what the JCS has done.

But when it comes to helping Singaporeans in difficulty, there are always hurdles of all kinds eg 'means testing' for hospitalisation, qualification criteria for HDB rentals etc.

That's a measure of what kind of Government we are having.

Lost Citizen

Anonymous said...

Everyone one of the government's policy is based on the assumption that people will abuse it. From rental housing to hospital. However is it not strange that when it comes to its own accountality and check , it conveniently says trust us. The population as humans can never be trusted but they are gods who declare trust us and we have to believe

Onlooker said...

Job credit Scam is basically giving your boss money to let you keep your job that is if you are in a GLC company.PAPer cannot fail (reputation is more important than the people they are suppose to served).
For MNC and SME no such luck.
The PAPers still fail in providing a safe environment for locals Singaporean whatever they do now will be too little and too late.

Anonymous said...

I guess if u cannot wait for the rented flat, you can start pitching tent at East Coast Park or Changi Point. Funny MP Mah Bow Tan never suggest it. He can even say HDB will loan via installment with minimum interest the tent equipment should you have difficult in purchasing one.

Anonymous said...

With our original amount of reserves in temasek and GIC, we should be able to easily invest in safe instruments that will yield 20billion each year. This would translate to mean $600 per mth for each citizen. This would also mean that many of our poor old aunties and uncles do not have to clean tables, wash toilets, bully by foreign workers and worry about medical costs.

Alan Wong said...

Prataman say it is OK for him as the "highest paid key keeper" to agree to allow our PAP Gahmen to use 4.5 billion for our Job Credit Scheme. Would he dare to disagree, anyway?

I fully agree with Lost Citizen that it's hard to believe that our money-faced Gahmen sounded so generous when no 'means testing' is needed to see if such companies qualify for the help.

I smell something fishy behind this Job Credit scheme. Looking at the scale of things, do we really need S$4.5 billion to bail out the companies without the need to see whether they really need such assistance. For those cash rich companies, it's like putting the taxpayer's money in the pockets of the millonaires .

Or could it possible that certain reputable (GLC?) companies are at the verge of being bankrupt (and therefore PAP's reputation at stake?) that the Gahmen has no choice but to make use of taxpayer's monies to bail them out on the pretext of preserving jobs.

In politics , we know that there are many ways of giving mere excuses such as when a particular CEO has resigned, it's not because of the collusal losses that she has make her Company to suffer, etc.,

In any company accounts we also know that there are many ways to massage the figures. Because nobody will really find out the facts if the info provided are cooked up in the first place. I really dread to think that it may be a cover up for some larger scheme of things for which our Gahmen do not really want us to know.

If our Gahmen are so adamant in refusing to lower the rents for those SMEs occupying those JTC properties sold to Mapletree, why would do you think that they are so generous now with this Job Credit Scheme.

Only if there is any way to find out the truth, I really would like to know whether there is any hanky panky behind the Job Credit Scheme.