A total of 1,356 households who could not meet their monthly mortgage payments received help from the Housing Board (HDB) from April to June this year, as Singaporeans grappled with the economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The figure is nearly a threefold increase from the 517 households who found themselves in similar circumstances during the same period last year.
Of the 1,356 households assisted, two-thirds requested to defer their loan instalments or pay their loan arrears by instalment, HDB said yesterday, in response to e-mail queries from The Straits Times.
The remaining one-third of households received other forms of assistance, including the extension of their mortgage loan tenure to help reduce monthly instalments.
Taxi driver Edwin Leong was among those who received assistance. He had defaulted on two months of his housing loan by the time he called HDB for financial assistance in April.
The 41-year-old said his income plunged by more than half when Singapore went into a standstill during the two-month circuit breaker period.
“I was quite worried about the late fees and future payments, so I just decided to call HDB to try my luck and see if they can help me,” said Mr Leong, the sole breadwinner and father to two children aged 10 and 13. His family lives in a five-room HDB flat in Choa Chu Kang.
Mr Leong opted to reduce his $670 monthly HDB loan instalment for six months till December and is now paying 40 per cent less than what he used to pay.
“The few hundred dollars has helped to lighten my load, so I’m not so stressed. Hopefully the Covid-19 situation is better by December, if not, I’m also not sure what to do,” he said.
One of the relief measures to help Singaporeans through Covid-19 was the suspension of late payment charges on HDB mortgage arrears for three months from April to June. It was further extended for another three months to the end of September.
The current late payment charges is 7.5 per cent per annum based on the outstanding instalment amount at the end of the month.
Banks and finance companies have also been providing relief to those struggling to meet their loan repayments.
Data from the Monetary Authority of Singapore shows that 34,000 home owners have asked to stop paying their loans and interest until December.
Another 2,100 people have asked banks to defer their renovation and education loan payments.
HDB said yesterday it has in place various assistance measures to help flat owners facing financial difficulties tide through the Covid-19 crisis. These include allowing flat owners to:
• Reduce or defer their loan instalments for six months, with a further six-month extension if necessary;
• Pay their loan arrears by instalment till their financial situation improves; and
• Extend their mortgage loan tenure to help reduce their monthly instalments, if needed.
“This will give them more time and space to sort out their finances, seek re-employment and/or improve their financial situation,” said HDB.
Those who face “longer-term hardship” can include working family members as joint owners to help pay for the flat.
Alternatively, they can consider right-sizing to a smaller flat that is within their budget, added HDB.
Flat owners who require assistance with their mortgage payments can contact HDB on 1800-225-5432 from 8am to 5pm on weekdays, or make an appointment with housing counsellors at the HDB branches for advice.
Originally published in The Straits Times.