Let's imagine that once upon a time, life was good in Singapore. You were lowly-educated, but you had a job, a small but steady income. You bought a flat from HDB (quite cheaply too) and you could afford the mortgage payments.
15 years later, you fell on hard times. You lost your job. Your savings ran out. You begged and borrowed. Finally you sold your flat, took the money and repaid the loan sharks, and you stayed with relatives.
You kept on looking for jobs, but except for the occasional odd job as a cleaner or dishwasher, you failed - you became just another one of those "structurally unemployable" Singaporeans. Finally, you couldn't even get the cleaner/dishwasher job anymore, because the foreign workers from Bangladesh beat you to it.
Another year passed, and then your relatives kicked you out. They said that they couldn't go on feeding you forever. They aren't rich themselves. So you decided to rent a one-room HDB flat.
But you got rejected.
The reason? Some technical rule that you didn't even know existed. You had bought a flat directly from the HDB flat 15 years ago, and then you'd sold it - therefore you cannot rent any flat from the HDB anymore. You've been disqualified.
So you start living in a void deck. You're homeless now.
To add insult to injury, the government says that actually, you prefer to be homeless.
This government won't rent a public flat to a citizen, but it WILL sell a public flat to a non-citizen. Wonderful, isn't it.
ST Jan 24, 2007
Are some here homeless by choice?
Govt says even with 3 options available, some prefer to be homeless. Not always the case, say MPs
By Peh Shing Huei
EVERY now and then, the media reports on cases of Singaporeans who live in void decks, or on the beach.
Yesterday, their plight was raised in Parliament, with different views on how they came to be homeless.
They are sometimes 'homeless by choice', said Parliamentary Secretary (National Development) Mohd Maliki Osman.
But four MPs rose to their feet to argue that some people were forced out of their homes and had no choice but to sleep in void decks.
The debate arose from a question filed by Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Marine Parade GRC).
Referring to two homeless cases cited by Dr Faishal which were featured in Malay-language newspaper Berita Harian in November and last month, Dr Maliki said that in both cases, the people were 'homeless by choice rather than due to circumstances beyond their control'.
The first person, said Dr Maliki, made substantial profits through the sale of two subsidised flats. When he applied for a subsidised Housing Board rental flat, he was rejected because he could not meet the eligibility conditions.
The second person, added Dr Maliki, defaulted on the mortgage payments on his flat, which he had purchased from the open market with a housing grant.
When the bank repossessed his flat, he applied to HDB for a subsidised rental flat, but was also rejected because he could not meet the eligibility conditions.
HDB advised him to consider buying a smaller flat or to live with his siblings, or to stay at temporary shelters run by volunteer organisations, but he declined all these suggestions.
Dr Maliki highlighted three options for families who have trouble finding a roof over their heads: subsidised rental flats, open-market rental flats, and living with extended families.
Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked: 'Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that there are also many cases of residents who are in negative equity and, as a result of that, the banks are forcing a sale and therefore they actually don't have excess cash to help them rent a flat, buy a flat?
'And that these cases are increasing because of the policy change of allowing banks to handle HDB mortgages?'
Families planning to take up a bank loan should understand the implications of taking on this responsibility, said Dr Maliki.