My young friend, Priscilla, and her boyfriend want to get married and start a family quickly. But like many young couples here, they have a major problem --- they cannot find a place to live in.
And the HDB is not giving them any joy...even after writing to the minister for help. Here's her story:
"I have been applying for a flat since 2008 and till today, I have failed a total of 7 times. This is quite an appalling number of tries considering that HDB claims that majority of first timers can get their flat within 2 tries.
" After failing for the 5th time, I wrote to the minister appealing for a flat (I had hoped that the appeal would help me get a flat during my 6th and 7th time). The minister responded quickly within a few hours mentioning that my appeal is being looked into and HDB has been alerted.
"A week later, a HDB officer called and informed me that they are looking into my case. More than a month passed since that phone call and I finally received an email reply from HDB.
"The following is my appeal email and their template reply (which completely sidestepped the point of my letter). I was really disappointed at their template reply as I do not feel that it has truly addressed my concern.
"I also felt that it was ridiculous when it seemed like they were accusing me for not choosing the remaining 3 units (only 1st and 2nd storey were available). The HDB letter of Jul 2009 had already acknowledged that I would not be penalized for rejecting the remaining units as only 3 units remained.
"Apart from that, it has already been publicly acknowledged that there has been an inflated demand for flats regardless of mature/ non-mature estates.
"The government keeps emphasising that couples should plan early, however, when we plan early, we can’t seem to get a flat. It’s kind of disheartening. I will give a big BOO to HDB for this really horrible and insensitive template reply. "
Here's the HDB reply to Priscilla:
"We refer to your e-mail of 26 Jan 2010 to Minister for National Development.
"You have applied four times for a new flat under the Build-To-Order (BTO) System in the non-mature estates. You had a chance to select a new flat on 23 Oct 2009 under the Jul 2009 BTO Exercise, but you did not do so even though there were three units available.
"In addition, you have applied twice for a new flat under other sale exercises, as well as under Dec 2009 BTO for a new flat in the mature estate in Dawson. The flats offered in these sale exercises are located in the popular, mature estates where the supply is limited and the demand is very high. Hence, the chances of securing a flat are very slim.
"You will have a higher chance of success in your flat application if you continue to participate in our BTO Exercises in the non-mature estates, which is our main supply of new flats. HDB is planning to offer 7,000 flats in 1H2010. The projects will have a good geographical spread over areas such as Sengkang, Sembawang, Punggol, Yishun and Jurong West.
"If you need to buy a flat urgently, you may wish to consider buying a resale flat from the open market. As First-Timer applicants, you and your fiance can apply for the CPF Housing Grant to assist you financially in the resale flat purchase, if you meet the prevailing eligibility conditions. However, resale flat buyers may have to pay a premium for the completed flat in location of choice. You can refer to our Website at www.hdb.gov.sg for more information on the CPF Housing Grant Scheme.
"If you need any assistance on the buying of a flat, you can contact our Customer Service Manager, Clarence Cheong at 6490 3657, during office hours (Monday - Friday: 8.30am - 5.30pm).
YEO-HO CHUI HONG (MRS)
AG DEPUTY DIRECTOR (SALES)
ESTATE ADMIN & PROPERTY DEPT
Here's Priscilla's letter of appeal to the Minister:
Thank you for taking time off your busy schedule to read my appeal. I would like to bring to your attention my numerous unsuccessful attempts at sales exercises, and hope that you could give due consideration to my appeal for an HDB flat.
"You mentioned in October last year that 96 percent of first-time flat applicants would succeed on their second try at BTO sales exercises. However, my boyfriend and I have started applying for HDB flats since April 2008, and we have clocked a total of seven times, with the most recent being Limbang Green (Choa Chu Kang), which was launched this year.
"Of these tries, five were for BTO sales exercises, with even two in non-mature estates like Bukit Panjang and Punggol. We believe we are the four percent minority, if the statistics still stands, and thus hope that you could consider helping us out.
Project Applied/Project Launch Date/Result
*Bi-monthly Sales Exercise/10 April 2008/Not invited to select a flat
*Senja Green BTO (Bukit Panjang)/ 26 August 2008/Not invited to select a flat
*Sunshine Court BTO (Choa Chu Kang)/30 December 2008/Not invited to select a flat
*Punggol Residences BTO (Punggol/30 July 2009/Only 2 units left for selection at the time of appointment due to the ethnic quota
*Sale of Balance Flats (Bukit Merah)/1 October 2009/Not invited to select a flat
* Skyville/Sky Terrace BTO (Dawson)/15 December 2009/Application submitted. Results pending.
*Limbang Green BTO (Choa Chu Kang)/5 January 2010/Application submitted. Results pending.
"Based on the frequency of our applications and the estates selected, you can be sure that we are not one of those picky flat applicants who are choosy about the location. We just hope you could grant us a flat soon, so that we could have a place to start our family."