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!