Affordable Housing for Single Mothers

Early in the month of May 2022, AWARE released a report based on their findings from the Support, Housing and Enablement (S.H.E.) Project. The report documents the issues that single mothers face when applying for affordable housing, and discusses housing policy recommendations to serve single mothers in Singapore better. 

Single mothers may want to find their own shelter for various reasons, ranging from problematic family dynamics, to unsafe or inconducive home environments for themselves and/or their children. Nonetheless, the desire for a shelter should not be denied in any circumstance, though institutional barriers stand in the way. 

Here are some key takeaways from the report that detail the difficulties specifically single mothers face when applying for housing:

Long waiting time for rental housing 

Data obtained shows that the median waiting time for public rental housing is nine months following their application. Such long waits contribute to instability as single mothers may not be able to continue staying in their current residences for such a long period of time for reasons ranging from insecurity to inconvenience. 


Stringent criteria for housing application

For mothers who are divorced, their marital status fails to fit the definitions of a nuclear family, and hence, they will have to apply under the Singapore Single Citizen and/or Joint Singles Schemes if they are looking for affordable housing options. This puts Built-To-Order (BTO) flats out of the picture, along with resale flats due to the high costs that may be difficult for the single mother to bear. 


Inconvenient location of shelters 

For mothers who require shelters as their current homes are unsafe and pose immediate threats to her and her children’s wellbeing, the inconvenient location of shelters deter women from applying and finding a safe place. Should they find refuge in these shelters far away from their community, they risk being displaced from the social circles that they have previously established. 


Complexities in current policies

An additional layer of complexity is introduced when these single mothers have unstable incomes. Teo Yeo Yenn’s ‘Vignettes of the Poor Versus Stories of Poverty’ recounts that one room flats often run on a Pay As You Use (PAYU) basis. PAYU is a prepaid system where homeowners prepay for their water and electricity. This means that when there is no more balance, water and electricity to the house will be cut off. 

Such schemes are problematic especially for single mothers with unstable incomes as her salary will be used to buy other daily necessities throughout the month. Moreover, should she run out of disposable income, her home may have no access to electricity and water until she receives her pay at the end of the month. 

Additionally, other blanket policies such as childcare subsidies or public assistance schemes may not be enough to empower these women. For example, childcare subsidies are not enough to encourage a single mother to send her children to childcare or preschool as her work hours may make it unviable for her to pick her children up, or bring them to school. Moreover, public assistance schemes have stringent criteria to meet, especially when assessing her level of social support. To be eligible, she must not be receiving any support from the child’s father, or her own family which may be troublesome, and possibly demoralising to prove. 


The impact of affordable housing 

In a pilot initiative started by AWARE, they provided single mothers with free housing over a 2 year period. This was an attempt to give an opportunity and buffer period for single mothers to adapt and take on a new lease of life. Indeed, after the 2 years, the study found that “two-thirds of the women saw better job prospects and the median income among the women rose from $500 a month before they joined the project to $1,150”. 

Hence, AWARE’s affordable housing project proved that a buffer of safe housing and conducive environments is sufficient to uplift women, and provide them with confidence to get back on their feet. Indeed, a home is where we seek shelter, build relationships and grow. No one, especially children, should be denied that basic need regardless of their family structures or circumstances. 

Other suggestions by AWARE included walking divorcees through a timeline regarding their acquisition of their own homes for better planning and transparency. Another suggestion, which applies across most institutional policies, would be to assess applicants’ family relationships and housing situations into consideration. Blanket policies are bound to miss people who may be truly in need, and assessing the situation on the ground can help directly target the needs of those seeking help.



AWARE. 2022. “Stable housing access allows single mothers to progress in their careers, increase income and improve family well-being: AWARE report”. Retrieved from 

Teo, Youyenn. 2017. “Vignettes of Poverty Versus Stories of Inequality.” Media Asia 43(3-4): 138-44. Retrieved from   

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