Parliamentary Question, 4 May 2020
Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for National Development (a) in the last three years, how many households living in public rental flats have respectively experienced (i) a termination of rental tenancy due to arrears or (ii) have been downgraded to a smaller rental flat due to arrears; (b) how many households currently owe rental arrears to HDB, broken down by duration and amount of arrears; © what are the eligibility criteria for financial assistance measures provided by HDB and what does the financial assistance cover; and (d) what is the demographics of the households, in terms of (i) household size (ii) flat type and (iii) household monthly income per capita, who received financial assistance measures from HDB.
Mr Lawrence Wong: About 5,200 public rental households, or about 10% of all public rental households, are in rent arrears. In terms of value, about 75% of them owe less than $3,000 in rent, and in terms of duration, about half of them owe less than one year’s worth of rent.
HDB takes a compassionate and holistic approach when assisting tenants who are in arrears, and will seek to understand their individual circumstances. HDB has various assistance measures in place to help public rental households in arrears.
For households whose financial circumstances have changed (e.g. household income has fallen), HDB will assist to reduce their monthly rent upon appeal. Tenants who need more time to resolve their arrears are also allowed to pay off the arrears in instalments. HDB also works closely with MSF’s Social Service Offices (SSOs), and will refer households who may be in need of financial assistance to the SSOs.
For tenants who prefer to move to a smaller rental flat to ease their rental burden, HDB will help to facilitate their transfer. In the last three years, HDB assisted 159 households in arrears to move from 2-room flats to 1-room flats. The vast majority of them had four persons or fewer in the household.
Termination of rental tenancies is only taken as a last resort, and would not be solely due to the accumulation of rent arrears. In the last three years, there has been only one case of such termination.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)
The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.
She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).
Follow Anthea Ong on her public page at www.facebook.com/antheaonglaytheng