We Gave Up The $20k Proximity Housing Grant To Stay Further Away From My Parents: Here’s Why We Made This Tough Choice
- Ryan J
- February 8, 2024
- 5 min read
Most Singaporeans are eager to shave $20,000 off the price of their flat, which is why for most, the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) is attractive. However, there are a surprising few who intentionally choose to give it up.
Sometimes this is just because work or school are too far away; but other times, it’s because family dynamics just don’t work out. This week, we spoke to a Singaporean who deliberately chose to live further away, thus missing out on the grant:
Important note: The events described below occurred in 2017. At the time, the PHG applied only to homes within two kilometres of one’s parents. As of 2018, this was changed and now applies to homes within two kilometres. In addition, the grant amount has now been increased for some homeowners. You can check the updated numbers here.
Living on the other end of the island from parents
LK currently owns a 3-room flat in Choa Chu Kang, somewhere near the Teck Whye area. What’s interesting is that LK had rarely ever gone to the neighbourhood until he bought his flat; and in fact, he even says at the time he was quite averse to it:
“This flat is near where my army camp is. I associate this place with guard duty and confinement. It’s the last place I would have thought I’d pick.”
This is a huge distance from the neighbourhood where LK grew up, and where his parents currently reside – a maisonette somewhere in Bedok. Bedok was also where some of his childhood friends stayed, as LK went to school in the area; so moving to the west was a big shift.
However, it was entirely by choice, and LK did in fact find other available flats nearby:
“I made a conscious decision to be as far from my parents as I could. While I am always ready to support them, living near them would have been problematic for my family.”
This wasn’t an easy decision – apart from upsetting his parents, this would mean losing out on the $20,000 PHG. This was a significant sum for LK, as his wife had stopped working for medical reasons; and in any case, she would need to look after the children if the grandparents were too far away.
Many reasons to be further from home
LK says that initially, his family lived with his parents, as his wife’s family home was already occupied by her two siblings and parents. Furthermore, his parents’ maisonette was the more spacious of the two flats.
“But my dad liked to gamble, and whenever he lost money he would be in a bad mood; and the whole week we would hear a lot of shouting, slamming doors, or he would just be very unreasonable; my wife wasn’t too happy.”
LK says there were also occasions when his father had approached his wife to borrow money. Even though he always paid it back, it made her uncomfortable.
LK also says there were conflicts between his wife and parents, who were too controlling over their grand-daughter:
“My parents are the picky type who will complain about everything from her shoes being too ‘heavy’ to her pillow being too high, and this caused a lot of friction every day.”
So when looking for his own flat, LK already decided it had to be far enough from his own parents.
Initial issues of practicality, beyond losing the PHG
Besides losing access to the PHG, LK realised that he would end up further from work, and it would affect his daughter’s future school choices. However, as his daughter was yet to begin Primary schooling, he realised it was now or never:
“We realised it would be worse if she was already in Primary school, then we decided we wanted to move; and it also occurred to me that, if I picked a place close to my parents, I would be stuck for five years due to the MOP. So right from the get-go, we agreed it had to be far enough from home.”
LK sought the help of his friend, who is a practicing realtor; and the advice given to him was to start with a smaller and more affordable flat since the family would (1) lose the PHG, and (2) LK’s wife would be a committed home-maker after this decision.
LK also points out that, given the Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) and his sole income, there were significant limitations.
This resulted in the unusual decision to choose the Choa Chu Kang flat:
“There were definitely some places that weren’t so far, but were still away from my parents. But we liked the flat in Choa Chu Kang because it was newer, and the renovations were less than three years old. Also, just frankly, it was the second-cheapest place we saw.”
But what really clinched the deal was when LK’s employer agreed to his transfer: “My boss arranged to reassign me to another branch, which was about two bus stops from our new place; so I would end up closer to work than even from my parents’ place.”
Nonetheless, LK does say he misses a lot about the East side:
“I miss East Coast Beach the most, probably, because we like to cycle there; and the food village at the beach. Also I am quite used to the Katong area, where we used to hang out on weekends; I do still think the east side is better for a family lifestyle.”
Maintaining family relationships
While LK’s parents were initially unhappy with his decision, he feels keeping some distance has been the right choice. In fact, he feels their relationship has improved:
“We still meet up at least once a month, so I feel we treasure our time more; and there are no issues over minor everyday things. There is less tension, and I suspect my parents also feel less stressed out over having to look after my daughter.”
LK says living in Choa Chu Kang has also had it’s benefits for the family:
“Previously I didn’t know about Choa Chu Kang Park or Coney Island, I only knew a handful of coffee shops and Lot One when I was doing NS here; now I know my view was a bit skewed. But there are a lot of good places for cycling and walking, and I think we spend a bit more family time on that, compared to before.”
Future plans for the flat
LK says there are no immediate plans to move, although his wife has considered returning to work once their daughter is older. If so, the couple may consider upgrading to a larger flat; but there’s nothing concrete for now.
LK’s advice to new couples, who may have tensions with the in-laws, is to focus on your emotional well-being over things like the PHG:
“The grant is too small to justify years and years of conflict, and souring your relationship with either set of parents. If you need more space for yourself, it’s definitely best not to get too hung up on it.”
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