A single mother’s perspectives on housing rules

July 26, 2017

Rachel is a divorced mother who attended AWARE’s dialogue on 17 May, “Single parents need homes, too”. She penned the following blog afterwards, having been through many of the issues and challenges many single parents in the room have, and urging changes to housing rules.

Having just bought my own place after a long wait till my 35th birthday, I was piqued when I received an email from AWARE to attend a dialogue session for single parents who face different struggles in getting housing.  I knew what I went through during the years of renting from the private market, but I was also curious to see what other single parents do through.

The sharing was indeed very illuminating. I never knew there were so many ridiculous laws and rules out there. The irony is, I never knew because I had sole custody of my kids and need not have the nonsensical spousal consent. Nowadays the court does not generally grant sole custody and care & control of children, except maybe in cases where the spouse in incarcerated or has a history of abuse. Essentially, with debarment in cases of split care and control,  is the government saying that a woman needs to be abused/have a drug addict or criminal for a husband in order to be eligible for a flat?Couples who had gone through acrimonious divorces require their ex spouses’ permission to buy another flat? This is totally ridiculous and unacceptable, and needs to be called out for what it is.

The myopic laws we have in place also meant that I also had to endure years of an abusive marriage just because of a ridiculous law barring divorcees or singles under 35 from buying their own place. Without that law in place, I would have had the legal freedom to leave my marriage then and to secure a safe and affordable housing option for myself and my children. After my divorce, I again had to endure paying years of exorbitant rental for renting from the open market, because I do not make the ridiculous income bracket of $1500. That is the most ludicrous: even when I started working 20 years ago with only an O’levels certificate, my starting salary was already $1600! The government prides itself on being a first world nation and Singapore is indeed an affluent society. What is the percentage of our folks earning less than $1,500? Surely this information can be gleaned easily from national studies, and used meaningfully during then process of legislation? I am thankful that I have the financial means and independence to have my own place, but I was really screwed over by the laws for years before things turned around. And having heard from the ground, this is embarrassingly clear that I was not the only one to suffer from such senseless laws in place.

I was glad and heartened to see one of the MPs, Louis Ng, who had made the effort to attend the session and listen to the various concerns. What single parents really want to see is that the relevant agencies come together to address these issues and concerns, and to ensure that the laws do not contradict each other as they do now. They should also organize more deep dive sessions and focus groups with single parents to truly understand the problems and to work effectively on the solutions.

The government’s job is to ensure that each and every citizen has a safe and stable roof over their head, and not to play the unsolicited role of moral watchdog or worse, that of a totalitarian. Marriages are organic and as such, divorces will happen regardless of social engineering. Having such archaic and senseless laws in place will only ensure that both parents and children suffer, and create vicious cycles of unnecessary hardship.

Please support equal access to housing for single parents by signing and sharing the petition urging changes to our restrictive housing rules for single-parent families.