Pritam says Government has not adequately acknowledged people’s anxieties on housing

SINGAPORE – Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh on Tuesday suggested that the ruling party had not adequately acknowledged people’s anxieties about the affordability and accessibility of HDB flats, as he proposed an amendment to a motion on public housing.

Speaking as the House debated two motions on the subject – one by National Development Minister Desmond Lee and the other by Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-Constituency MPs Leong Mun Wai and Hazel Poa – Mr Singh asked if “the current anxieties of Singaporeans do not warrant greater effort by the PAP government to review its commitment to affordability and accessibility”.

The House debated both motions for some 12 hours over Monday and Tuesday.

Mr Lee called on the House to say that it “affirms the importance of keeping public housing affordable and accessible while protecting the interests of current and future generations of Singaporeans, and endorses the commitment of the Government to these twin goals”.

Meanwhile, Mr Leong and Ms Poa called on the Government to review and fix its housing policies.

But Mr Singh said the People’s Action Party (PAP) motion as drafted did not sufficiently take into account the reality that the Government should work harder to make Housing Board flats and Build-To-Order (BTO) flats more affordable and more accessible than they currently are.

“Voting for the PAP motion, as drafted… would mean that Singaporeans are satisfied with waiting up to four to five years for an HDB BTO flat. It will also mean that Singaporeans do not have any quarrel or concern with the price of some BTO flats such as five-room BTOs in Ang Mo Kio priced at $877,000, and a significant increase in resale flat prices across the board recently,” he said.

“It will also mean that young couples and first-time Singaporean families who cannot secure HDB BTO flats in a timely fashion and are pushed to the resale market where resale prices are higher than they have ever been, are not seeking better outcomes from public housing policies. We know from our engagement with Singaporeans that this is not the case,” he added.

Mr Singh proposed a change to the motion.

He called on the House to say it “affirms the importance of keeping public housing affordable and accessible while protecting the interests of current and future generations of Singaporeans and calls on the Government to intensify its efforts to meet these twin goals”.

In response, Mr Lee said that the Government was in no way suggesting that its housing policy is perfect.

It has, in fact, acknowledged that things can be improved, and has been continuously working to make things better, the minister added.

“By no way are we saying all is well and good,” Mr Lee said. “(But) for the Leader of the Opposition to characterise our motion as us sitting on our laurels… I think is misplaced.”

He urged MPs to “vote down WP’s attempt at politicking”.

The House eventually rejected the changes.


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