SINGAPORE – When housewife Jennyfer Aw Young and her husband Wang Dewei, both 34, wanted to buy their first home in 2008, they went for a four-room Build-To-Order flat in Punggol as it was readily available.
But the couple longed to return to Jurong where they grew up and where their parents still live.
They eventually bought a resale executive flat in Jurong West Street 65 and moved in this October.
After receiving a Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) of $20,000, the 125 sqm unit cost them $525,000.
“It’s like homecoming for us,” said Madam Aw Young, a mother of three. “It’s so much easier to visit our parents now. We don’t need to wait for the weekend to have dinner together.”
She added: “The grant definitely helped us financially because we can save the money for our kids’ education.”
Madam Aw Young’s family is among the 5,217 Singaporean households that applied for the PHG within a year of its introduction, said the Housing Board (HDB).
The households comprise 4,860 families and 357 singles.
Some $82.6 million in grants have been disbursed to 4,315 of these households. Another $18.2 million will be released to the remaining applicants when their resale transactions are completed.
The scheme, which was rolled out last August (2015), helps families live closer together when they buy resale HDB flats. Families who buy a resale flat to live with or near their parents or married child receive the $20,000 grant.
Eligible singles get $10,000 if they buy a resale flat with their parents.
All Singaporeans are eligible for the grant once, regardless of their income level and whether they have received housing subsidies before.
This includes private property owners. They have to sell their property within six months of buying the resale flat.
HDB said those who applied for the PHG made up about a quarter of all the resale applications registered between Aug 24 last year – when the scheme kicked in – and Aug 31 this year.
Just over half, or 56 per cent of the applicants, would not have qualified for any housing grant before PHG was introduced.
Mature and non-mature estates were almost equally popular among applicants.
A bulk of the applicants – 95 per cent of them – were married children, while the rest were parents.
Most of them, or 83 per cent, opted for flats within the same town or a 2km radius of their parents or married child. The others chose to live in the same flat or same block.
These numbers echo the feedback received in 2014, when the National Development Ministry organised a series of Housing Conversations to engage Singaporeans.
Many young participants said they preferred to live separately from their parents but near them, citing independence and privacy as chief reasons.
Mr Mohammad Azrul Ab Aziz, 28, is happy to live near his parents. The marine company supervisor and his 26-year-old wife recently bought a four-room resale flat in Woodlands Street 13 for $345,000. Of this sum, $60,000 was covered by grants, including the $20,000 PHG.
“My property agent told me about this grant,” said Mr Azrul, whose retired parents live a few blocks away on the same street. “It’s convenient because my mother can help us collect any delivered items when we are not at home.”
“When we have kids next time, I can also take them to my parents’ flat so they’ll be closer to their grandparents.”
In a Facebook post on Saturday (Dec 10), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the majority of beneficiaries are families and children buying flats to live close to, or with their parents.
“Many would not have been eligible for any housing grant if not for the PHG,” he wrote.
“We recognise the desire shared by many Singaporeans to live closer to their families. At the Ministry of National Development, we will continue to support this aspiration and help strengthen family bonds in Singapore.”