Homelessness & homes in S’pore

The current brouhaha concerning a couple living in a tent on Singapore’s beach featured on Al Jazeera TV is, believe it or not (at least in my opinon), the other side of the brouhaha over middle-class yuppies not being able to find HDB housing at a price they like, in a location they like.

Let me start with the homeless couple. Minister for Community, Youth and Sports, Vivian Balakrishnan, gave the background of this couple at last month’s Parliament sitting.

The man in the Al Jazeera video have had three bites of the HDB cherry and made profits of $224,000 in the process. The woman is still the co-owner of a HDB unit with her ex-husband.

Hence they weren’t eligible for further public housing although alternative shelter had been offered to them. Also, they are receiving financial aid to help them keep body and soul together.

With The Online Citzen (TOC) leading the pack, several of the usual goventment-bashing netizens have come to this couple’s defence as well as Al Jazeera’s for making the video.

TOC blithely countered Dr VB’s profit revelation with this:

“The man in the video” bought and sold his three flats over a period of 20 years.  The so-called “tidy profit” was derived by totaling up proceeds accumulated over two decades. “The man in the video” lost his third flat as a result of a divorce.  He is a single father struggling to support three children.  He is not sitting on a sudden windfall.”

TOC went on: ” The woman in the video is technically co-owner of an HDB flat.  She is also a divorcee. Neither CNA nor the minister mentions this, but is it logical to expect a divorced couple to live under the same roof.”

First, let me say that while the woman wasn’t stated as a divorcee, every report I’ve read had said she co-owned the flat with her ex-husband. By implication, it must mean she’s a divorcee. Unless TOC knows that “ex-husband” has a different meaning?

Second, if TOC thinks making a profit of $224,000 over 20 years is no big deal, then how about looking at it as an average of $10K a year? Perhaps TOC can tell us if it’s really common for the 20-30% lower income earners in Singapore to make $10K a year from public housing?

Third, so what if the man-on-the-beach spent that money on paying off debts? If everyone who goes homeless because of going into debt is to have the government running to provide them with more housing, who is going to foot the bill? TOC?

While I, too, am concerned about people doing without a roof over their head, especially when they are old, sick and alone — I have given each and everyone of these I’ve met the price of a decent meal — I’m won’t like to see Dr VB doing more for those who have options or are given options but refuse them because they find these options unpalatable.

Divorced couples can and do live together, if circumstances prevent them from doing otherwise. Also, couples who aren’t married and have to be separated in order to go into sheltered housing should make that temporary sacrifice rather than have HDB or other agencies bend rules to suit their preferences.

Which brings me to the other side of the coin I referred to at the start of this post.

I’m tired of reading about those with household incomes above $8K per month pushing the government to raise the income ceiling. I’m glad that the Government is holding the line here, though for how long I won’t like to speculate.

I’m equally tired of those –whose parents or grand-parents had bought HDB homes at prices that today won’t even get you a COE — demanding direct-purchase HDB housing to be priced like it was in early-independent Singapore.

Given this ludicrous expectations of HDB that permeates a lot of Singapore, I’m afraid I’ve to take a line out of NCMP Sylvia Lim’s crack that the PAP is responsible for the lack of opposition in Parliament. The root of the housing brouhaha is the Government’s doing! 

As I’ve said before, HDB had started as low cost housing for those who can’t afford private, either to own or to rent. It should have stuck to that and found other ways to enhance Singaporeans’ assets and entrench them to our country.

After all, if the man in the video could only afford to rent, the $220K+ that he had accrued from buying and selling HDB homes would have stayed with the Government. Which in turn could have afforded to give him a $26 per month one-room rental flat for free for 700 years. Put another way, it could give him and 699 hard luck families a rent free home for one year!


8 thoughts on “Homelessness & homes in S’pore

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Homelessness & homes in S’pore « FOOD fuels me to talk… -- Topsy.com

  2. Think you missed TOC’s points. Whatever it is, this couple has slipped through the cracks. So does it mean they should die and disappear from the face of Singapore? I’m not saying their pasts and backgrounds don’t matter. But at this stage where his business had failed and they are homeless, what now? They can neither move forward or backward. That is where MCYS is supposed to come in. Yeap they sure did. And embarrassed the couple and themselves.

    “If you were a poor person, anywhere on this planet, Singapore is the one place where you will have a roof over your head, where you will have food on the table. Even if you can’t afford it, we will have meals delivered to you. You will get healthcare.” – Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister MCYS

    Go figure what that means.


  3. The point is this couple was offered alternatives. They said “no”. This is a free country. U can say “no” even if the alternative is for u to shame the country needlessly. But the country, government and tax payers aren’t obliged to customise the options that will fit your preferences to a T.

    And dear Kaffein, u exaggerate. This couple ain’t starving by any means. MCYS has said they’ve been given financial assistance; cld be the government, cld be fm NGOs or a combination of the two. In fact, even if none of this is available, since they are sleeping in the open, many kind hearted people will go and feed them. I’ve seen it happen to those in void decks, outside MRT stations etc.

    While MCYS is by no means perfect, I can vouch tt its network does deliver meals to those in one-room HDB units who are too old/sick/insane to cook their own meals or even buy them fm the cooked food stalls– provided always that they agree to accept help.

    I don’t know how involved u r in S’pore’s underclass but if u r, u wld know that one prime problem is their disbelief that the govt or anyone else for tt matter want to help them. Persuading those truly vulnerable to accept help can take weeks, if not mths. Perhaps when they are so down and out, they no longer think rationally?

  4. Singaporean government’s inquisition style of sieving out the truly poor from the also poor frightens many poor from asking for help. Imagine this:

    Bureaucrat: Tell me how poor are you? Please list down what you don’t have starting with house, car, then TV, radio, bed, and all the way down to the shirt and underwear you wear.

    Poor: I don’t any of the above except the shirt on my back and this pants. I used the last underwear to catch fish and someone stole it to wash his car.

    Bureaucrat: But surely, you have friends you can stay with right? You cannot make Singapore look bad by camping at East Coast Park. This is our showcase recreational area and cannot have people like you living in tents there.

    Poor: But I have no friends or relatives. Also, the shower facilities here are free and clean. Please, can I stay here for another week?

    Bureaucrat: OK, but if you are caught again, say you are a foreigner not Singaporean ok? In Singapore, we do not have poor people like you. They don’t exist because our statistics say you cannot exist. One more week, then you go to the West Coast Park ok?

  5. Haha, u sure got imagination AugieAngst n I love the avatar generated for u…!!!!

    If I may, I wld continue yr script…

    Poor: Eh, wot’s going to happen to me Uncle when they tell me to move on at West Coast Park?

    Bureaucrat, pauses, thinks n speaks: Try Sembawang Park or Youth Park? 😀

  6. I agree with your article. Says it far better than I could have. And certainly far better than TOC’s rhetoric on this case.

  7. Pingback: The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 19

  8. Thank you dear Contrarian. Wish people like u r more vocal, because our Govt seems to be more willing to listen to those who make the most noise! If the PAP doesn’t lk out, that may b its ultimate downfall, because its evolving leadership doesn’t know where to hold the line and say “enuff no more”.

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