SINGAPORE: A petition calling for more inclusive housing policies for single parents was submitted to Parliament on Monday (Sep 11).
It was presented by Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng on behalf of seven single parents who face "difficulties securing their basic needs, in particular with regard to public housing".
Under Housing and Development Board (HDB) rules, divorced parents who owned an HDB flat cannot buy another housing board flat for 30 months after their unit is sold.
The petitioners want to include a subsection in the Housing and Development Act, to state that the minister and the board "shall not discriminate against any person with legal custody of a child on grounds of such person’s marital status".
Mr Ng cited a study by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), which found that 95 per cent of single mothers who sought public housing faced difficulties.
"Firstly, unmarried parents and their children are not recognised by HDB as a family nucleus. Secondly, long debarment periods prevent divorced parents from accessing purchase and rental flats," he told the House.
"The petitioners urge that such problems should not be addressed solely by discretionary case-by-case exceptions but by having rules which are more inclusive."
Mr Ng pointed out that Singapore is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which states that member countries will assure the rights of children and take appropriate measures to ensure every child's right to an adequate standard of living, in particular with regard to housing.
"In light of the increasing number of single-parent families in Singapore, the petitioners recommend that these families should be equally supported to meet their basic needs, and should not be discriminated against," the father of three said in his speech in Parliament.
"I cannot imagine going through my parenthood journey alone, and I can appreciate how difficult it must be for single parents. I sincerely hope we hear from the petitioners and respond positively to their call for equal support for single parents," he added.
In a joint reply to the petition on Monday, the Ministry of National Development (MND) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said they have noted Mr Ng’s petition and thanked the petitioners for the feedback.
"Our public housing policies aim to address the needs of Singapore citizen households, without undermining self-reliance and family support. At the same time, we recognise that every case is unique," MND and MSF said.
They added that each case is evaluated "holistically" and with "flexibility" to help households according to their circumstances.
"This includes helping households headed by single parents to buy a flat within their means, or providing rental housing for those with no other housing options or have no family support," said the joint reply, adding that families facing various difficulties will get help such as counselling, financial assistance and employment support.
"As a party to the UNCRC, Singapore remains committed to making Singapore a great place for children and families to thrive and grow in, thereby empowering our children to achieve their full potential. Achieving this, especially for vulnerable families, is an ongoing effort."
The ministries added that they "look forward" to hearing from the Public Petitions Committee, which considers petitions received by Parliament.