conficting policies?

(from the Straits Times today)
Long wait for flats a hurdle

I REFER to last Friday's report, 'Baby bonus? Look into costs instead: Chiam', in which opposition MP Chiam See Tong said a more holistic approach is needed to tackle fertility trends.

We are a newly married couple with a combined income of about $6,500. A major obstacle we face is obtaining a flat we can pay for with our Central Provident Fund contributions, which will free us to set aside enough cash to have children.

Only two options are available to us: buying resale or build-to-order (BTO) flats. Resale is out of the question for reasons that are obvious: prohibitive prices. The second option, BTO, is a poor system for couples who want to have children for two reasons:

First, the current generation of university graduates usually start work when they are about 25 years old. By the time they decide to apply for a BTO flat, they will already be in their late 20s or early 30s.

Factor in five more years of waiting before they move into their new home and couples can start having children only when they are in their early to late 30s. How does the Government expect us to have more children if such circumstances force us to start a family so late?

Second, about 95 per cent of BTO flats are allocated to first-timers, mostly newly engaged or married couples. This ensures that most couples will start having children only after they move in, which is about five years later - when they are most likely over 30 years old.

If policymakers want Singaporeans to have more children, they should make housing available to us much earlier, preferably by the time we are 30. The point about the current low rate of fertility is not that my generation does not want to start a family early. It is the difficulty in obtaining a flat that makes it hard for us to start a family early. An earlier start will give us more precious time to plan for a larger family.

The Government can make it easier for us to buy a resale flat by offering the means to offset the cash-over-valuation component, or by increasing our housing grant.

Jason Zheng


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