Housing Hurdles: The Struggle of LGBTQ+ Couples in Singapore

Housing Hurdles: The Struggle of LGBTQ+ Couples in Singapore

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement of housing policy changes was intended to mark a step forward for the queer community in Singapore. However, the muted response from the LGBTQ+ populace spoke volumes. Far from the beacon of progress it was portrayed as, these changes barely scratch the surface of underlying discriminatory policies that have long plagued same-sex couples in their pursuit of home ownership.

Systematic Discrimination in Public Housing

Public housing in Singapore, predominantly managed by the Housing & Development Board (HDB), is a critical aspect of the nation’s infrastructure, sheltering a vast majority of the population. Yet, it’s within this success story that we find an insidious narrative: same-sex couples face systematic discrimination under current housing policies, which severely limit their access to affordable homes.

Singles in Paper, Couples in Life

Despite enduring relationships, same-sex couples are relegated to the status of “singles” due to the non-recognition of their unions. This administrative classification carries with it significant disadvantages, particularly in the realm of housing. As “singles,” they face a restrictive path to purchasing a new Built-to-Order (BTO) flat or a resale flat, with dire financial and personal implications.

The BTO Barrier

BTO flats are the cornerstone of affordable housing in Singapore, yet they are a virtual mirage for same-sex couples. The stipulation that individuals must be 35 years or older to purchase a BTO flat as a “single” imposes a disproportionate time delay on queer couples, compared to their heterosexual counterparts who can embark on home ownership from the age of 21. This disparity represents not just years but generations of disadvantage, confining same-sex couples to smaller living spaces and limiting their options.

Inconsequential Improvements

The recent policy updates announced by the Prime Minister allow same-sex couples to purchase 2-room flexi BTO flats from any estate. However, this minor tweak does little to dismantle the barriers that these couples face, akin to allowing them more seating options while still serving them the smallest portion of the societal pie.

The Income Ceiling Conundrum

The financial restrictions further compound the issue. With an income ceiling set for the eligibility to purchase a BTO flat, many same-sex couples find themselves economically disqualified as they reach the age of eligibility, pushing them towards the more expensive resale market.

The Dire Need for Inclusive Reforms

The penalties imposed on same-sex couples in Singapore extend beyond mere inconvenience. They represent a significant financial burden and a consistent message of exclusion. The housing policy in its current state not only delays the dreams of queer couples but also casts a shadow on their sense of belonging and safety within their own country.

The call for change is clear. It’s time for policies that go beyond tokenistic gestures, offering real, substantive equality in housing rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Only then can Singapore claim to be a truly inclusive society where every citizen has a fair shot at the foundation of stability and prosperity: a place to call home.