Petition for change of housing policy for single parents turned down

A parliamentary petition by an MP, on behalf of seven single parents, calling for a reform of the public housing policy for single parents has been turned down.

Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng wants the authorities to recognise unmarried parents and their children as a family nucleus, so that they can be eligible for public housing schemes.

The petition, submitted to Parliament in September, was referred to the Public Petitions Committee, which asked the Ministry of National Development for a response.

The committee's report and the ministry's response was made public yesterday. The ministry, which oversees public housing, said that it has no intention to amend the law and introduce exemptions for unmarried and divorced parents.

It said the Government is committed to housing the nation and ensuring the well-being of children.

But achieving these goals does not require special legislative exemptions for single parents, it said, adding that the Housing Board already exercises flexibility in appropriate cases.

HDB can also make changes at policy level, which does not require changing the law, the ministry said.

The petition by the single parents wants housing rules to be more inclusive instead of granting case-by-case exceptions, at a time when divorce rates are climbing.

There were 7,614 divorces and annulments last year, up by 1.2 per cent from 2015. In 2015, 863 babies were born to unwed mothers, down from the 1,099 born in 2010.

The Association of Women for Action and Research, which submitted a statement supporting the petition, also made several suggestions. These included letting divorced parents rent public housing or buy subsidised housing immediately after the matrimonial flat is sold.

The petitioners also wanted to remove debarment periods, which prevent divorced parents from renting from the HDB or owning subsidised flats.

In its reply, MND also said that it is mindful "not to undermine the prevailing social norm of parenthood within marriage" when helping unmarried parents.

It added: "A range of government agencies work together to ensure that no child is without adequate housing, regardless of whether his or her parents are single or married."