We read with a certain sense of amusement the recent report in The New Paper about the Housing and Development Board (HDB) apartment owner who blatantly advertised daily rates for her HDB apartment rooms. The advertisement, found in October’s issue of the in-flight magazine for Indonesian carrier Lion Air, featured three photos of the rooms and the address of the ‘hotel’.

While we found the brazen audacity of this owner amusing, the response by HDB was more disconcerting than anything else. Yes, they did mention that they are investigating the matter, and that subletting to short-term tenants is a lease infringement.

But the spokesperson went on to note that ”A tourist’s length of stay is usually short, and the turnover of such ‘occupiers’ is expected to be high. This may lead to high human traffic to and from the flat, which will disrupt the pleasant living environment and ambience in our HDB estates.”

To us, that seems to be besides the point, and is clouding a straightforward issue. Disruption of the environment and ambience is unlikely to be the biggest challenge on peoples’ minds when it comes to buying a HDB apartment. No, actually finding and affording one is probably a lot harder.

The most glaring issue here is that this owner is using state-subsidised housing, meant for citizens who need a home, to instead support a money-spinning hotel business!

Now, we have nothing against entrepreneurial spirit, but doing so at the expense of Singaporean families in need of a roof over their heads, and with government grants meant for subsidising homes, not businesses, goes against the very grain of what HDB was created for.

This is just one owner who was too brazen for her own good; how many others are there operating such clandestine businesses, but flying under the radar (instead of, y’know, advertising 30,000 feet in the air)? Every single one of these robs a family of a place to stay.

Should this owner be found to have infringed on the lease agreement, not only should the unit be re-acquired, but the fine should be, at the minimum, her estimated revenue from operating this business. This is the only way to hit such trangressors where it hurts – their profit margin.


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