“A visit to HDB rental flats in Henderson Road where all dreams died…”
On my flight to London yesterday, I watched a Cantonese movie “ Still Human” onboard. It was a touching story about Mr Leung, a half-paralyzed elderly, from waist downwards and his encounter with his Filipino helper, Evelyn Santo while living in a tiny public housing flat.
The small space and dingy environment made daily living miserable for both the boss and helper, one who had very little income and the other, desperate to earn some money to send home to feed her young children. But there was a big difference between them – Mr Leung gave up all hopes and dreams of having a better life; Evelyn Santo cherished a dream of becoming a professional photographer which she knew she had no chance to achieve. Their lives took a dramatic change when Mr Leung, on realizing how important was the dream to Evelyn, that he bought her a new camera and helped her to submit her photographic work to an international competition, which she won the top award. The story ended happily for the Filipino helper who was released from her contract to pursue her dream and the kind-hearted Mr Leung, continuing his life in a public housing flat without dreams, nothing to look forward to.
How is this movie story, “Still Human” relevant to my visit to the public rental flats in Henderson Road?
The many residents I met with my Team of Volunteers, all seem to live by the day, hand-to-month, simply they do not earn a sufficient income or unable to obtain any meaningful financial assistance from the government agencies. Some can’t work because of poor health or stuck in lowly-paid jobs with young children or disabled spouses to support. One lady resident recounted her experience of seeing her MP for help, and being referred to one agency after another and ended up in nothing. She said, “a waste of time.” Several residents confirmed having experienced power cut because they did not have enough money to go to the Post Office to ‘top-up’ a small device to restore power supply to their flats. Just imagine the whole household with young children, staying in darkness whole night, until Papa or Mummy has money to restore the electricity supply to their flat.
What kind of modern day living is this in a HDB rental flat?
Worse, the monthly rental can be revised upward if the tenant has a wage increase. A person must have an income of $800 or less to apply for a 1-room flat paying $26 to $33 per month. If a tenant has a salary increase of even $1.00 to $801 a month, his rental will jump to $90 to $123 a month range. This means the monthly rental of the flats differ even though they are all 1-room units. The purpose of HDB is to reduce the subsidy as the tenants earn more but this does not make sense in property rental.
This HDB policy on rental flats also means the tenants are unable to increase their savings even if their salaries grow. If they can’t save, they can’t get out of the poverty cycle. If they have school-going children, they will remain disadvantaged compared with their classmates who are better endowed.
How can our citizens living in rental flats have any dream of a better future for themselves and their children?
Even if the few who dare to dream, their dreams will die in HDB rental flats. But they are “still human.”
Peoples Voice dreams of a Singapore that we can feel like Home again.
Fellow Singaporeans, work with us to make this dream come true.