Friday, February 05, 2010

HDB Homeless Policy

Recently,much has been said about my intention to contest in Tampines GRC. As stated in my comments to the mainstream media, I do not have anything personally against Mr Mah Bow Tan. I have the greatest respect for him. He is one of the most senior Cabinet Ministers in Singapore. He has won 3 general elections and is on the fast track to become Deputy Prime Minister. When PM Lee retires, Mr Mah is a leading contender to become the next Prime Minister of Singapore.

Mr Mah’s high and mighty status does not however mean that he is always right and that ordinary citizens should not speak up when they see him pursuing polices which have caused great hardship to many Singaporeans. Mr Mah’s first policy failure is that he built an insufficient number of HDB flats to meet the needs of Singapore’s population. From 2003 to 2008, the total population of Singapore increased by 17.6%. The number of HDB flats increased by only 1.2%.

The shortage of HDB flats has caused a destructive boom-bust housing bubble to be formed. The prices of resale HDB flats have skyrocketed beyond the means of many Singaporeans. New “subsidised” flats from the HDB have an over subscription rate of 5 to 10 times. If you succeed in getting a flat, you have to wait 3 years or more before you are able to get your flat.

The huge demand for HDB flats is largely due to the increase in population. Over the past 5 years, Singapore’s population has increased tremendously due to the Foreign Talent policy. Given Mr Mah’s senior position in Cabinet, it is uncertain how Mr Mah could have missed this and be “caught off guard”. This is not something that just happen overnight. It has been a steady phenomenon for the past 5 years.
A well documented consequence of the Foreign Talent policy is that it depresses wages in Singapore. Based on CPF data, the number of active CPF members (ie Singaporean Citizens and PR) who earned less than $800/ month increased by 36.8% to 214,448 in 2008.

At current prices, a HDB flat is NOT “affordable” to a family that earns less than S$1,500 a month. The rise in the number of people earning less than $800/mth means that there is a significant rise in the incidence of families that earn less than $1,500 a month and cannot afford a HDB flat.

Such families typically have to rely on renting heavily subsided flats from the HDB. It is here that Mr Mah made his second policy failure. It seems that Mah Bow Tan's HDB does not think it should rent flats to Singaporeans who could no longer afford a decent flat. This is further reiterated by MM Lee recently that PAP's direction is that they do not want to rent flats to Singaporeans as far as possible. In fact, even when people are forced to sleep in the wild, in the parks, along the beaches... etc, PAP has maintained such a strong stand ever. They would rather rent HDB flats to foreign workers than renting them out to Singaporeans. The Online Citizens' article has a special report on this unusual phenomenon happening in Singapore, under the nose of PAP governance.

Statistically, from 2003/2004 to 2008/2009, HDB decreased the number of rental flats by 45.5%. As a result of this hard hearted policy, the waiting time to rent a subsidized flat from HDB has jumped to between 17.5 months and 25 months. Just not so long ago, right after GE2006, HDB has announced the demolition of a few blocks of rental flats in Mr. Low Thia Khiang's Hougang constituency. I also know that HDB is actively trying to get people who are staying in rental flats to get out. It is interesting to know that while HDB is actively reducing the number of rental flats for Singaporeans, they have been actively increasing rental flats for foreign workers here. It really makes me think about whether HDB's priority is to serve Singaporeans' housing needs or rather, the foreigners. This long waiting time for Singaporeans to rent a subsidized flat is in sharp contrast to foreigners who come to Singapore and work in the integrated resorts. These have been offered subsided housing IMMIDIATELY in the prime Toa Payoh district. For more details, please refer to the following article.

Unable to “afford” a flat (because of Mr Mah's HDB policy) and unable to rent a subsidized flat (also because of Mr Mah's HDB policy), the natural outcome of such disadvantaged Singaporean families is to become homeless. Singapore does not publish statistics on the homeless. The official position of the Singapore Government is that there are no homeless people in Singapore. The recent tent shanty which sprouted in Sembawang Park, Changi Beach, East Coast Park, West Coast Park etc shows that this is not true. How many how many people have you seen sleeping in the common areas when you walk through the HDB estates in the small hours of the morning?

Mr Mah’s policy failures have given rise to a small but growing number of homeless Singaporeans. Closing his eyes and pretending that they don’t exist will not make these homeless Singaporeans go away. Given his track record of monumental policy failures, would you want to entrust Singapore’s future to him? Maybe he will just give the same old catch phrase, "I am CAUGHT OFF GUARD" that his HDB policy has resulted in this growing number of homeless people.

Goh Meng Seng

No comments: