Single parents need homes, too: Liya’s story

December 21, 2017

Single parents in Singapore grapple with a myriad of problems and restrictive rules when it comes to meeting a basic need – housing. Read more about our recommendations for how policies should be more inclusive of single parent families.

Below is Liya’s story on her experiences with applying for housing.


Liya* is a 22-year-old unmarried mother of a young daughter. At 15 years old, Liya had to move out of her family home into a welfare home due to family violence. For three years, she stayed at the Welfare Home, and moved out once her case was closed. She tried to go back to living with her family, but had to leave again after three months as she did not get along with her step-father.

Liya then started renting from the private market and living with friends. She moved six times in five years, spending around $450-$550 on rental each month. She was in prison for some time in late 2016. After being released, Liya rented from the private market again, paying $550 in rent every month. Despite working, she eventually had to stop renting when she could no longer afford the rental fees. Her income and cash savings have been drained on rental, and necessities for her daughter.

Currently, Liya lives with a friend, but without her child on weekdays as her child’s childcare centre is too far away. Her daughter lives with a babysitter (who is also Liya’s friend) and her family on weekdays.

Liya has appealed to rent from HDB thrice, but was rejected. In the latest rejection letter, HDB stated that she does not qualify to rent because i. She does not meet the family nucleus requirement and ii. She is listed as a beneficiary of her late mother’s inheritance.

Here, HDB’s rejection of her appeal for housing is based on the assumption that Liya would have enough financial resources to afford private market solutions, but the situation is not as straightforward.

Liya’s mother passed away in 2016. The HDB flat that she co-owned with Liya’s step-father was supposed to be sold and the proceeds divided equally for her children. However, it has been more than a year since her passing and her step-father is still occupying the flat with his four children. His unwillingness to sell it prevents Liya from accessing her share of the inheritance. This means that Liya still does not have the financial resources for the private market.

Moreover, even if Liya does get money from the sale of the house, it will not be a large sum because her mother has ten children, and outstanding debts with the bank. Liya would also have to depend on this sum for all her daily expenses, her daughter, and on housing.

Liya’s predicament therefore raises questions about the way HDB exercises discretion. In particular, how does HDB determine if a single parent has other housing options? Liya’s case quite clearly demonstrates that she can no longer live with her family (her mother has passed away; she does not get along with her step-father), and that she cannot afford private market solutions. In their rejection, HDB also did not offer any alternative housing options for Liya and her child.  Liya is now in the process of making another appeal.

Said Liya, “It is so hard to find an affordable place for my daughter and I to stay together, and many landlords don’t allow babies to live in the units. I’ve already been rejected before but I really hope that HDB would be understanding of our situation.”