Room Rent In Singapore For Students – The Big Read: Under one roof – the perils and promises of living with foreigners as tenants in HDB flats

SINGAPORE – The tension between Mr Lim and Yap, a tenant of a flat in a scheme for singles, was evident during an interview with TODAY.

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Ms Doreen Chan in her flat under the pilot Joint Singles Operator-Run Scheme, on 24 March 2023. To give more privacy, HDB has built new one-room rental flats with partitions, including some with internal doors to separate sleeping areas. area.

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The interview should be moved from their flat in Bedok to the void deck, and conducted separately to make it more conducive for the two men – who refused to give their full names – to speak more freely.

Their close relationship is part of the dynamics of living under one roof with strangers, in their case as co-tenants under the Joint Single Scheme Operator Run Pilot (JSS-OR).

Another co-tenant in the scheme, Mr Sankili Poothatthan Kalimuthu, had to put up with behavior that disturbed his classmates.

“One night, he invited two friends over for drinks and they were really rowdy. I told him to control the volume because I had just come back from a day’s work and needed some rest, but he snapped at me.”

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The tension between them came to a head when Mr. Kalimuthu’s flatmate threatened to hurt him, and he eventually asked to be moved out to a different flat.

On a brighter note, a co-tenant under the JSS-OR scheme can be a much-needed help to their single partner in times of trouble.

That’s the experience of a 50-year-old tenant who only wants to be known as Mr Vincent. Once, he was so sick with diarrhea that he could not move or perform his daily activities as usual.

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His friend – who was sometimes inattentive – was the one who helped him with his daily needs, including preparing his meals, and called an ambulance when he saw Mr Vincent becoming weak and unable to move.

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“I was told that I’m fine, so I don’t need to go to the hospital. But it’s really good that he took care of me when I was sick,” said Vincent.

Mr Vincent, a 50-year-old tenant under the Joint Singles Scheme Operator-Run Pilot, received help from his flatmate with his daily needs once when he was so ill with diarrhea that he was unable to move or carry out his daily activities. as usual.

TODAY’s interview with 10 JSS-OR tenants found that although there were cases where flatmates did not see eye to eye, most said they could live together and get along.

To achieve this, tenants say they have to “‘give and take” often and “close one eye” or tolerate flatmates’ quirks and different lifestyles.

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The issue of singles as co-tenants in a flat has come under the spotlight recently, amid the launch of a new scheme and reports of squabbling flatmates.

Two weeks ago, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) announced a new pilot, the Single Room Shared Facility scheme.

In the pilot, which offers singles another option in addition to JSS-OTR,  tenants will have their own bedroom but share facilities with about 20 others. These facilities include toilets, kitchens and laundry rooms and activities.

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As single-income lower ponder the scheme that holds good promise for them, a recent incident offers a sobering reminder of the perils that co-tenancy can bring.

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Last week, a 59-year-old man was charged with murdering his co-tenant at a rented flat in Redhill Close.

Members of Parliament such as Mr Louis Ng of Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency and Mr Lim Biow Chuan of Mountbatten Single Member Constituency have also spoken in March 2021 about foreigners having to share “small spaces” as tenants in public flats. “don’t get along” with others and therefore “often quarrel”.

In response, Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim told the DPR that flat sharing allows the Government to help as many people as need public rental apartments “within our limited resources”.

To provide more privacy, HDB has built new one-room rental flats with partitions, including some with internal doors to separate sleeping areas.

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Launched on 17 December 2021, the JSS-OR scheme accommodates two or more low-income singles in a one- or two-room public rental flat,  depending on the size of the flat.

In this scheme, singles can apply for a rental flat without having to find a co-tenant because they will be paired up with other applicants who are strangers.

Although singles who applied under the long-running Joint Singles Scheme (JSS) launched in 1990 are encouraged to find a tenant to rent to, HDB will provide them with qualified single tenant applicants if they cannot find one.

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The JSS-OR scheme differs from the JSS in that it is run by an on-site social service operator who regularly organizes activities for tenants and mediates between them in case of problems.

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There are two social service operators managing flats in the JSS-OR scheme: New Hope Community Services, which manages a block in Bukit Batok West, and Good News Community Services, which runs two blocks of flats in Buangkok Crescent and Bedok North Road.

The JSS and JSS-OR schemes require tenants to be Singapore citizens and at least 35 years of age.

While the 10 tenants TODAY spoke to come from a variety of backgrounds, ages, genders, and ethnic groups, most of them are either low-income or retired. The tenants were interviewed in their flats either in Bedok Kalerim or Bukit Batok Kulon.

Despite the challenging experience with his previous co-tenants, Mr. Kalimuthu described the JSS-OR scheme as a “good opportunity” that provided him with proper shelter so he could focus on improving his finances.

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Mr Kalimuthu, who has a wife, son and daughter, all living in India,  had been renting two subsidized public rental flats before moving to a unit under the JSS-OR scheme six months ago.

During the pandemic, he has been fired as a software engineer, resulting in the loss of a fixed income.

To make matters worse, the monthly rent for her rental apartment at that time went from S$100 to S$200, which was more than she could afford. That left him with no choice but to give up the flat and become homeless.

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Despite the challenging experience with his previous co-tenants, Mr. Sankili Poothatthan Kalimuthu described the JSS-OR scheme as a “good opportunity” that provided him with proper shelter so that he could focus on improving his finances.

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Referring to his homeless experience, Mr Kalimuthu said: “One night I slept outside the Fullerton Bay Hotel, the second outside the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the third near the casino in Marina Bay.”

On the third night of rough sleeping, four policemen approached him and woke him up to ask about his housing arrangements, and further help him in finding affordable housing options.

“If something happens to me when I sleep in public, no one will know. But now in this house, I feel safe to sleep and it gives me peace of mind,” said Mr. Kalimuthu.

Apart from homelessness, other tenants interviewed spoke of poor financial conditions and a lack of housing options to join the scheme.

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Mr Vincent, a 50-year-old tenant, said he had been living in his parents’ apartment until they decided to downgrade to a smaller unit.

She cited cost as the main reason, as she is now unemployed, having given up her job as a freelance carer due to a back injury. He pays S$90 per month to rent the flat, including utilities.

For Ms Doreen Chan, a strained relationship with her family led her to apply for the scheme. The 76-year-old telemarketer moved into his JSS-OR unit in Bukit Batok West in September last year.

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“My son keeps chasing me out of the house. My family problems are very bad… (classified as) ‘critical family case’. So my social worker is fighting hard for me to get a place in this scheme, even though my income exceeds the limit to rent a house flats for low-income singles,” Ms. Chan said.

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Although most tenants in the JSS and JSS-OR schemes earn less than S$1,500 per month, applicants are not assessed solely on their income, HDB said on its website.

For the aforementioned Mr Lim and two other tenants – who only wanted to be known as Mr Nizam and Ms Rodiah – the JSS-OR scheme was a viable alternative to their previous flats they rented on the open market.

Mr Nizam, a 38-year-old technician and the youngest among the tenants interviewed, said he had moved out of his parents’ place when he was 20.

Since then, he has been renting on the open market before securing a subsidized rental flat under the JSS-OR scheme in February last year.

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“I pay a monthly rent of S$105.50 now. In the past, I rented a room and it cost around S$700 to S$800 per month,” said Nizam.

The flat is furnished with various furniture and appliances, including a mini freezer, washing machine, induction cooker, a folding table.

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