Buying a HDB flat as a single parent in 2020: How to do it

Being a single parent is hard, finding a home as a single parent (especially for an unwed single parent) is even harder. In the years past, regulations by the Housing & Development Board (HDB) have made it hard for divorced, widowed or unwed parents to get a home for them and their children.

For instance, it was only in March 2018 that divorced persons were allowed to buy or own a subsidised flat each upon divorce.

The situation improved further in 2020 after Members of Parliament (MPs) repeatedly pushed for change. On 4 March 2020, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong stated in Parliament that the HDB will lower the age limit for single parents looking to buy Build-to-Order (BTO) flats, while making the 3-room flat type available to them.

The HDB will also now assess all applications by unwed parents (not just on a case-by-case basis as it had been previously).

This article is updated with the latest rules (as of 10 May 2020), so single parents can see what HDB flat they are eligible for at a glance.

Divorced or widowed parents

Divorced or widowed Singaporean citizens who are at least 21 years old and have children under their legal custody, care and control are able to form a family nucleus with their child in order to purchase a HDB flat.

As a family nucleus, divorced or widowed parents they can qualify for housing grants/subsidies and have greater access to new flats (i.e. BTO flats) if they are first-timers.

For BTO flats, the HDB sets aside up to 5% of 2-room flexi and 3-room flats in non-mature estates for divorced and widowed parents under the ASSIST scheme. To be eligible, the parent must have at least one child aged below 18 years old. The child can either be the natural offspring from the lawful marriage or legally adopted, according to HDB.

To qualify for the ASSIST scheme, the parent must not have acquired any interest in an HDB flat or private residential property after the date of divorce/separation or demise of the spouse (except for the matrimonial flat/property).

While waiting for their BTO flats to be built, divorced or widowed parents without a place to stay may also apply for interim housing options such as the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS).

For resale flats, widowed or divorced parents may be eligible for the Enhanced Proximity Housing Grant regardless of whether they are first or second timers. If applicants are first-timers, meaning that they are currently not owners of, or have not previously sold subsidised flats, they may also apply for the Family Grant.

If the widowed or divorced parent is unable to afford a flat even with grants provided, he/she may wish to rent a one-room or two-room HDB flat under the Public Rental Scheme. This is applicable to widowed or divorced parents who are 21 years old and above, do not earn more than $1,500 a month in household income.

tengah hdb non-mature estate
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Divorced and widowed parents can tap on the ASSIST scheme to get a new BTO flat in a non-mature estate such as Tengah (pictured). Source: HDB

Unwed parents

Previously: Unlike widowed or divorced parents, unwed parents were unfortunately not eligible to buy a new HDB flat as the parent and child were not recognised as a family nucleus. They will be asked to wait until they turn 35 to apply for a BTO HDB flat or buy a resale flat under the Single Singaporean Citizen scheme or Joint Singles Scheme (as a co-applicant).

According to MND, single unwed parents above the age of 21 (but below 35) have been allowed to purchase new two-room flats and resale flats in the past. This was based on a case-by-case basis.

Unwed parents were also ineligible for rental subsidies if they rent a flat from HDB.

Now: On 4 March 2020, the government signaled its commitment to support the housing need of unwed parents “to ensure that their children have a stable home to grow up in and a good start in life”. Unwed parents who approach HDB for housing assistance, including rental flats, will not be turned away. HDB has stated that it will assess each request “holistically and individually”.

For BTO flats, single unwed parents aged 21 and above are also now allowed to buy new three-room flats in non-mature estates, compared to only two-room flats in non-mature estates previously.

For resale flats, any unwed parent aged 21 and above may request to buy one. Unwed parents can simply approach HDB with their requests via email at [email protected].

Unwed parents who cannot afford to buy any flat will be considered for public rental flat.

If you’re an unwed parent and encounter any further obstacles, you may wish to reach out to the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) to get further advice and assistance.

What is your experience of buying a HDB flat as a single parent? Share it with us in the comments section.

If you found this article helpful, recommends What Happens to Your House if You Die Tomorrow? and HDB inheritance rules: How they work (and what you must know)



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