HOTH: A Place to Call Their Own

While families in HDB rental flats who aspire to own their home may find the process a little daunting, help is at hand.

Tan Shimin is someone who will walk the journey with them, providing guidance and support every step of the way, as a member of HDB’s Home ownership Support Team (HST). The HST was formed in 2019 to help rental households progress towards home ownership.

We chat with Shimin to find out more about the work that she does, and how her connection to rental housing is more personal than it seems.

Shimin at Circuit Road
Shimin works with rental families to help them progress towards home ownership

Hi Shimin! Tell us more about what you do to help rental families.

I work hand-in-hand with them on their housing budget and flat options, and help them navigate the processes –  from planning their flat purchase to key collection. I also check in with them after they have moved in.

Each family’s circumstances are unique, and they may enter rental housing for various reasons, such as financial difficulties due to loss of employment, or unexpected life events like divorce or the sudden loss of a family member.

So, we strive to identify the targeted help they need, and work closely with partners such as the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ministry of Manpower, Community Link, and Family Service Centres, to offer personalised support.

If we don’t address the fundamental issues, these problems might persist even after the family moves into their own flat.

Have there been any memorable moments in your work so far?

It gives me great satisfaction when I am able to help families own their home. For example, I have been working with, Mr Lee, who lives in our rental flat with his wife and young child. He had been doing odd jobs for many years before eventually starting his own business. Having built up his finances, he decided he was ready to build a home for his family in their own HDB flat.

He also believed that another family might need the rental flat more urgently than him. His never-give-up spirit and consideration for the needs of others touched me deeply, and I learnt a lot from him.

I am happy to say that Mr Lee and his family are now on their way to achieving their home ownership dream.

What inspired you to join HST?

I understand all too well the challenges that rental tenants face, because I too lived in a rental flat almost all my life. Having lived apart from my family before that, the rental flat in Circuit Road was a safe space where we could be together under one roof.

Housing block at Circuit Road
Circuit Road holds a special place in Shimin’s heart, having lived in a rental flat there almost all her life

We eventually bought our own flat, and I vividly remember the moment we first stepped into our new flat – the feeling was surreal. My mother simply said, “Finally, we have our own flat”, but I understood the magnitude of her words and how much hard work it took for us to get there.  

Achieving home ownership represented a new beginning for me and my family, and this is something I hope for other rental households as well.

Shimin at Circuit Road
The rental flat Shimin stayed in was a safe space where she and her family could be together
Shimin at a playground in the Canberra estate
Shimin now calls Canberra estate her home

What keeps you going at work?

I have met many amazing rental tenants in the course of my work. They are resilient and undefeated by their challenges in life. Instead, they persevere to resolve them, such as working hard to rebuild their finances.

They inspire me to work hard and do all that I can to help them – so that they too can have a place to call their own, have a fresh start, and uplift their lives.

Shimin at Canberra estate
Shimin hopes to make a difference to the lives of rental families.

Photos by Atikah Razak and Briana Tan

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