JTC Summit Building, JTC, Jurong Town CorporationIn the news lately, due to the mention in parliament, is Jurong Town Corporation (JTC)’s Scheme for Housing of Foreign Talent, also known as SHiFT. But what exactly does this scheme, started in 1997, entail?

Well, directly from JTC’s website, we can find the general idea and implementation of SHiFT. It is meant to offer a wide range of public housing for rent to foreign talent, meeting their diverse needs, preferences and budgets.

The apartments range from 3-room (2 bedrooms) for up to 4 persons, to Executive (3 bedrooms) for up to 6 persons. Tenancy is for a period of 1 year and subletting is not allowed.

SHiFT apartments are located within public housing estates, giving tenants easy access to amenities like banks, shops, markets, schools, clinics, cinemas, recreational areas and public transport.

To qualify for SHiFT:

  1. The main applicant must be at least 21 years of age; not an undischarged bankrupt; and must not own any local residential property.
  2. The main applicant must be an Employment Pass Holder* or a Permanent Resident* with a minimum fixed monthly income of $3,000.
  3. The main applicant must be an employee of a registered business/ company at the point of application (Letter from the business/ company will be required).
  4. Main applicant who is married and whose family is in Singapore must apply together with the spouse and children as a family unit.
  5. Sole/single applicant can only apply for a 3-room HDB flat.

 

* Applicable to co-occupiers who are not immediate family members. Immediate family members include main tenant’s spouse, children, parents and siblings.

It is good that they have officially come out to say that this scheme is gradually being reduced, and eventually removed. No doubt, many have proposed that we expand our pool of public rental flats, including us in this article, but we must question why it has taken this long. While sister schemes such as the Wessex Estate and Chip Bee Gardens Solutions might have been needed for growing our biomedical and other science and engineering industries, SHiFT is clearly much broader, favouring foreigners of all stripes and locations.

When taking into account the wide-ranging and general nature of this subsidised housing, combined with the exclusion of Singaporean citizens from this pool of available housing units for rent, it becomes quite clear why Singaporeans are upset.

But let me explain it in more detail anyway. By providing foreign talent with subsidised rental housing, the government (in the guise of JTC) is in effect lowering their cost of living substantially. By doing it with public housing (that is, Housing Development Board flats), they are doing so at the expense of native Singaporeans. In one fell swoop, not only are some Singaporeans deprived of a housing choice, Singaporeans in general are under-cut salary-wise by such foreign talent, who can afford to take a lower salary by virtue of their subsidised rent.

The icing on the cake – or more appropriately, the salt in the wound – is that it is actually quite hard for the typical Singaporean to qualify for a HDB rental unit. In contrast, a foreign talent need “simply select an available apartment according to your preference, and personally submit your application for it at the JTC office.”

The message being sent here, inadvertently or not, is that Singaporeans don’t matter as much as a foreigner coming here to work.

At best, this is a case of a JTC executive implementing what appears, on paper, to be a viable solution for housing foreign talent needed for its industries, without looking at the big picture of housing as a whole in Singapore.

At worst, it is a systematic effort to bolster and increase the foreign workforce in Singapore, perhaps for economic growth reasons, but to the detriment of the lives of Singaporeans in general.

It is quite obvious that housing is a hot-button topic in Singapore, even in the best of times. This makes SHiFT a very big elephant in the room. That it took more than a decade, and a strong opposition voice in parliament, for the flaws in SHiFT to finally be addressed, is of grave concern to us. While the solution implemented by individual stakeholders to solve their direct issues was effective, someone did not do a proper oversight. By oversight, we don’t mean stringent regulations that clamp down on anything not “written in the book”. We do believe that good management requires room for creative and innovative solutions, that may fail once in a while. However, to require more than a decade to realise the failure is a very big issue.

And as big as housing is in Singapore, the Ministry of National Development might want to look deeper into the reasons for this lack of oversight. With the very lives of families at stake, we don’t think it’s something that should be simply glossed over.

Any other viewpoints or comments to share? Let us know in the section below, or via our social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Check out our other articles on property at BLUTA-log.

SHiFT and JTC housing information taken from JTC website http://www.jtc.gov.sg/RealEstateSolutions/Housing/Pages/default.aspx

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  3 Responses to “SHiFT Exposes Need For a Shift in Attitude”

  1.  

    “..it took more than a decade, and a strong opposition voice in parliament, for the flaws in SHiFT to finally be addressed..”
    If you are referring to WP MPs, I would disagree with you. They have not been effective. It is the rise of social media that was and is the game changer. In fact, it was and still is the bloggers that are doing the heavy lifting for the alternative voices.

    •  

      @Sam
      Hi Sam,

      Thank you for your comment and opinion. We understand that some may feel that our opposition is ineffective and not strident enough in parliament. However, we would like to point out that, firstly, it was Lina Chiam of SPP who first raised this SHiFT issue. Also, we feel that the greater number of opposition members in parliament does lend strength to calls (including from bloggers like us) for the government to be more accountable.

  2.  

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