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Couples welcome cheaper temp rental flat optionCouples who have yet to marry but are already waiting for their new flats to be built welcome the policy tweak that would allow them to rent a cheaper flat.
But many told The Straits Times that they are not rushing into a decision as the financial costs might outweigh benefits of privacy and space.
On Wednesday, the HDB expanded the eligibility of the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme to include engaged couples. These couples are now allowed to rent a vacated flat, at about 40 per cent cheaper than the market rate, in locations like Ang Mo Kio, Boon Lay, Bedok and Dover.
But they must produce their marriage certificate within three months of moving in.
Some, like software engineer Kelvin Chen, 27, said the move is a boon. He now stays with his parents and sister in a five-roomer in Choa Chu Kang. He is getting married next year and is waiting for a four-room flat in the same town to be completed in 2017.
"Once we get married and my wife moves in, it might get a little congested in the mornings, especially the bathrooms and kitchen," he said. But the price, even subsidised, is a factor that could hold back many couples, said industry watcher Chris Koh.
For instance, the monthly rental rate for a four-room Bedok unit is $1,200. Over a three-year period, this adds up to over $40,000. "These are en bloc flats, and although refurbished, are typically about 30 years old.
But such an option is still far more feasible than renting from the open market, given that their locations are good," he said. Soon-to-be-married couples The Straits Times spoke to were keenly aware of the expenses looming in their near future, such as renovation bills.
They said that even at the subsidised rate, the rental payments would be put to better use servicing a home loan.
Marketing and operations executive Jonah Chew, 27, said he will consider renting such a flat after he gets married next year - but not before. "I will save the cash for the wedding.
If the rent is lower, it would be more helpful for young couples like us," said Mr Chew, whose Punggol flat will be ready a year after his wedding.
Other couples like 25-year-old marketing executive Mohamed Khalil and his fiancee are not keen on moving in together before marriage. "We are still very traditional at heart, and pushing forward our marriage date just to rent a place is not the most romantic thing to do," he said.
Sociologist Paulin Straughan said the tweaked policy would cater to young couples with urgent housing needs but priced out of the open market. She recalled that such concerns, coupled with the waiting time for a flat, were reasons some couples gave for not starting families sooner.
Ms Lee Bee Wah, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, said that "alleviating the woes of young couples who want to set up their own families, but feel constrained by the lack of space and privacy at home" was at the scheme's core.
Although latest figures show only 327 married couples have taken up these flats so far, Mrs Straughan added that "this is still a good option to have". "The more barriers you lift, the easier it is for some young couples to form families," she said.