This was a cut delivered in Parliament on 5 March 2010 by Workers’ Party Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang during the Committee of Supply debate, on the budget for the Ministry for National Development (MND).
It was reported by the Straits Times that the number of homeless people has doubled. When I read the report, I was thinking whether this is more a social problem or a housing problem?
My own experience from Meet-the-People sessions is that it may be less a social problem and more of a housing problem. This is because while many of these cases of residents who lost their homes do involve dysfunctional families, quite a number are still financially viable and could afford to stay together as a family if they could afford the rental of a house. Many ended up without a home because of strict HDB rules on rental housing and obtaining HDB subsidised housing loans.
I understand HDB’s housing rules are to ensure economic benefits given to citizens are equal and not abused and thus has resisted providing HDB rental flat and housing loan at below market rates.
I am concerned that such a position could create more homeless Singaporeans, which could unwittingly breed a segment of our society that becomes bitter and alienated from their country that seems to care so little about them when they fall onto bad times.
The HDB’s proposition for those who are unable to purchase a HDB flat or to qualify for a HDB rental flat is to seek help for accommodation from family members. The HDB should know well that with the size of HDB flats, most families do not have a spare room to accommodate another distressed close family member’s family. The end result would be strained relationships between family members which could adversely impact the family structure as a basic unit of our society. Is the creation of more strained family relationships desirable?
I therefore urge the Government to seriously look into the problem and explore other housing options for such families.
Sir, how can we aspire to be a First World country with a world class public housing programme if we have homeless citizens camped out in public parks?
Read other Workers’ Party statements at wp.sg.