MPs seek help for divorcees in housing bind
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.
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