MPs seek help for di­vorcees in hous­ing bind

The New Paper - - NEWS -

Di­vorced par­ents who share care and con­trol of their chil­dren should each be al­lowed to list them as essen­tial oc­cu­piers – a nec­es­sary step for them to be con­sid­ered an el­i­gi­ble fam­ily unit for a sub­sidised Hous­ing Board flat.

This sug­ges­tion was made by three MPs who, in a spirited dis­cus­sion, sought help for a small group of di­vorcees caught in a hous­ing bind.

Cur­rently, di­vorcees granted shared care and con­trol – a court rul­ing that di­vides day-to-day de­ci­sion-mak­ing con­cern­ing a child be­tween both par­ents – have to agree who gets to list the child as an essen­tial oc­cu­pier.

This re­quire­ment is “con­sis­tent and fair to all HDB flat own­ers where each per­son can only be listed in one HDB flat”, Se­nior Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Sun Xuel­ing said.

To ful­fil it, the ex-spouse ap­ply­ing for sub­sidised hous­ing must get the other’s con­sent.

But an ex-spouse who is granted sole care and con­trol does not need to do so.

PE­NALISES

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who has been cham­pi­oning greater ac­cess to sub­sidised hous­ing by di­vorcees, said the HDB’s pol­icy pe­nalises di­vorced par­ents for a court rul­ing that is out of their hands.

He added that the rule does not gel with a change made ear­lier this year, when the Min­istry of Na­tional De­vel­op­ment re­moved a time bar that made di­vorcees wait three years be­fore they can ap­ply for a sec­ond sub­sidised flat.“Aren’t we back to square one?” he asked.

Ms Sun replied that the HDB will “ex­er­cise flex­i­bil­ity” to­wards di­vorced cou­ples who can­not reach an agree­ment.

Ms Ra­hayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) and Mr Alex Yam (Mar­sil­ing-Yew Tee GRC) also lent their sup­port.

Ms Ra­hayu, a lawyer who han­dles divorces, said HDB’s pol­icy “does not gel with the prin­ci­ple of a shared care and con­trol ar­range­ment be­cause par­ties have ac­tu­ally been or­dered to al­low the chil­dren to live with them”.

She also said HDB of­fi­cers should give more spe­cific guid­ance about hous­ing op­tions when ad­vis­ing di­vorc­ing cou­ples. Ms Sun said she would pass on the feed­back.

— RACHEL AU-YONG

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