4 ways an essential occupier can help with your HDB BTO or resale flat purchase, grants, etc.

Updated: 15 min read

Buying an HDB flat, be it BTO or resale, can be challenging, especially given the various criteria to meet. But all hope is not lost — having an essential occupier can help you with your HDB flat purchase.

But first, let us explain more about the essential occupier.

Who can be considered an essential occupier? 

According to HDB, an essential occupier (or core occupier) is a family member listed in the Application Form to form a family nucleus, allowing you to qualify for an eligibility scheme to purchase a flat. It can be for a new flat, like a BTO, or a resale flat.

An essential occupier can be:

  • If you’re married: you, your spouse and children (if any)
  • If you’re widowed, divorced or separated: you and your children under your custody
  • You and your fiance/fiancee
  • You, your parents and siblings
  • If you’re buying a 3Gen flat: you, your spouse, fiance/fiancee and your parents
  • Orphaned siblings
Screenshot of essential occupier definition from HDB
Source: HDB

Maximising financial advantages with essential occupiers

Incorporating an essential occupier in your HDB flat purchase isn’t just about meeting eligibility requirements; it’s a strategic move that can unlock a plethora of financial benefits. For instance, essential occupiers who are first-time buyers can significantly leverage grants like the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant, which can be a game-changer in managing the financial load of acquiring a new home.

This is particularly advantageous for young couples embarking on their homeownership journey, as it can ease the upfront costs and provide more breathing room in their budget. It’s crucial to navigate the grant eligibility criteria with precision, ensuring that the inclusion of an essential occupier aligns with the long-term financial planning for your home.

Being an essential occupier is different from being an owner as they won’t have any share in the flat. But there are a few ways they can help with your HDB flat purchase. Here’s how.

Qualify an eligibility scheme to buy an HDB flat

If you can’t buy an HDB flat on your own (e.g. if you’re below 35), you can add a family member as an essential occupier to qualify for a certain scheme.

Public Scheme

Applicable for: New flats from HDB (i.e. BTO, SBF or open booking) and resale flats

If you’re widowed or divorced and have children under your custody, you won’t be able to buy a flat on your own under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme until you turn 35.

The good news is that with the Public Scheme, you can buy a flat by listing your children as essential occupiers. As they’re underage, you won’t be able to list them as co-owners.

Learn more about the eligibility criteria for buying HDB flats here

Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme

Applicable for: New flats from HDB and resale flats

Getting married to a foreigner? Private properties aren’t your only option! As long as you’re a Singaporean, you can list your foreign spouse as an essential occupier to qualify for this scheme (since foreigners can’t own an HDB flat).

Do note, though, that if you plan to buy from HDB (i.e. apply for BTO, SBF or open booking), you can only apply for a 2-room Flexi flat in a non-mature estate when you’re at least 35 years old.

So a better option would be to buy from the resale market since you can buy any flat type (except 3Gen flat or PLH flat) as long as you’re at least 21 years old.

Here are the main differences between buying from HDB and the resale market.

Buying from HDB (BTO, SBF or open booking) Buying from the resale market
Age of SC At least 35 years old At least 21 years old 
Flat type 2-room Flexi flat in a non-mature estate All flat types (except 3Gen flats and PLH flats) 
Resident status of the foreign spouse  A valid Visit Pass or Work Pass (of any validity period) at the time of flat application If you’re at least 21 years old: 

Your spouse must have a valid Long Term Visit Pass or Work Pass of at least 6 months from the date of issue at the time of resale application 

If you’re at least 35 years old: 

Your spouse must have a valid Visit Pass or Work Pass (of any validity period) at the time of resale application 

An additional perk is that if your child is a Singaporean or PR, you can apply under the Public Scheme instead. Through this scheme, you’ll be able to qualify for more grants such as the Family Grant and Enhanced CPF Housing Grant. This helps you to reduce the amount to be paid upfront too.

On top of that, there’s a wider range of flat types that you’re eligible for.

Buying from HDB (BTO, SBF or open booking) Buying from the resale market
Age  At least 21 years old At least 21 years old 
Flat type Up to a 5-room flat All flat types (except 3Gen flats) 

HDB flats for sale


Non-Citizen Family Scheme

Applicable for: Resale flats

Single, below 35 and don’t mind living with your family? If your family members aren’t Singaporeans or PRs, you can still list them as essential occupiers to be eligible for the Non-Citizen Family Scheme. They can be your parents and siblings, or children if you’re widowed or divorced.

Before you submit your resale flat application, make sure that at least one parent or child has a valid Long Term Visit Pass or Work Pass for at least six months when you submit the resale flat application.

For example, if the pass was issued in May 2023, the earliest you can submit your resale application would be six months later in November 2023.

Apply for a bigger unit

Not many people know this, but yes, having an essential occupier can help you get a bigger HDB flat too!

3Gen flats

Applicable for: New flats from HDB and resale flats

3Gen units are estimated to have 115 sqm of floor area — 5 sqm extra compared to 5-room units. They’re designed for bigger families, so they come with one more bedroom with an attached bathroom.

Screenshot of the HDB flat types
Source: HDB

And as the name suggests, they’re for multi-generational families. The family unit must consist of a married/engaged couple and parents.

Essentially, this means that you can list at least one Singaporean or PR parent as an essential occupier to qualify for a 3Gen flat.

Jumbo flats (under Conversion Scheme)

Applicable for: Resale flats

Can’t find a jumbo flat to your liking? DIY a jumbo flat instead, through the Conversion Scheme by doing either of the following:

  • Buy a 3-room or smaller flat that’s adjoined to your currently owned 3-room or smaller flat
  • Buy two adjoining 3-room or smaller flats

The good thing about this scheme is that it’s not just for those who form a family nucleus with their spouse or parents.

If you’re widowed or divorced, you can also apply for this scheme and list your children under your legal custody, care and control as essential occupiers to get an HDB jumbo flat. Take note that at least one of the listed occupants is a Singaporean or PR.

Increase BTO ballot chances

Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS)

Have a Singaporean child aged 18 and below? Or expecting to have a child? If you and your spouse are first-time buyers, you can increase your BTO chances by listing your child as an essential occupier.

Up to 30% of BTO units and 50% of SBF units are allocated under this scheme.

(The PPS will be expanded and renamed Family and Parenthood Priority Scheme (FPPS) from the August 2023 BTO exercise onwards.

Under this scheme, up to 40% of the BTO flats will be set aside for those under the FT (PMC) category. The unit allocation will be even higher at 60% for those applying for SBF. On top of that, they will get first priority if they’re applying for a 4-room or smaller flat in a non-mature estate.)

Third Child Priority Scheme (TCPS)

Having more children can also help with your BTO chances. If you have at least three children, you can qualify for this priority scheme. Widowed or divorced parents are also eligible as long as they have legal custody, care and control of their children.

Do note that the third child to be listed as an essential occupier must be a Singaporean born on or after 1 January 1987.

Under the TCPS, flat allocation is up to 5% of BTO and SBF units.

Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers (Divorced/Widowed Parents) (ASSIST) 

For divorced parents, here’s another priority scheme to take note of. If you have at least one child aged 18 or below, you can increase your BTO chances by listing them as essential occupiers.

Through ASSIST, flat allocation is up to 5% of 2-room Flexi and 3-room BTO flats in non-mature estates. This allocation is shared with the 15% quota for second-timers.

Learn more about the BTO priority schemes here

Qualify for grants/subsidies

Family Grant

Applicable for: Resale flats

For widowed or divorced parents, you can qualify for the Family Grant by listing your children as essential occupiers to form a family nucleus.

Here’s the maximum grant you can get.

Household 2- to 4-room resale flat 5-room or bigger
SC/SC S$80,000 S$50,000
SC/SPR S$70,000 S$40,000

Learn more about the HDB grants available for couples and families here.

Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) 

Applicable for: Resale flats

Planning to live with your parents or children? Listing them as essential occupiers can help you qualify for the PHG. The maximum grant amount is S$30,000 or S$15,000 if you’re single.

Old lady with her son
Listing at least one of your parents as an essential occupier can help you qualify for the Proximity Housing Grant.

Learn more about the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) here

Citizen Top-Up

Applicable for: New flats from HDB and resale flats

This is a form of subsidy for Singaporean/PR households who have:

  • Paid a premium of S$10,000 to buy a new flat from HDB
  • Taken a CPF housing grant that’s S$10,000 less than SC/SC households when you bought a resale flat, DBSS or Executive Condominium (EC)

They can qualify for the S$10,000 subsidy if the PR listed in the application (as an owner or occupier) becomes a Singaporean, or the family has a Singaporean child.

So if your child is Singaporean, you can list them as an essential occupier to qualify for the subsidy for the HDB flat, instead of waiting for the PR (whether it’s you or your spouse) to get citizenship.

Learn more about the Citizen Top-Up here.

What’s the drawback to listing your family member as an essential occupier? 

MOP restrictions

The caveat is that anyone listed as an essential occupier will have to stay in the flat throughout the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP), (which is five years for typical HDB flats, and 10 years for PLH flats). Plus, they won’t be allowed to own local or foreign residential property within the MOP.

So listing your child as an essential occupier can complicate things if they intend to buy a BTO or resale within five years. It’s the same with your parents. They won’t be able to buy private property within the MOP if they’re essential occupiers of an HDB flat.

Use of grants and financing

On top of that, from 9 May 2023 onwards, essential occupiers will also receive a share of the housing grants. But they won’t be able to use it for the flat purchase unless they’re listed as a co-owner.

HDB grants distribution change
Source: HDB
HDB grants distribution change
Source: HDB

Like the co-owner, the essential occupier will be considered a second-timer for their next HDB flat purchase. They can use the grants the next time they apply for public housing.

The exception to this rule is parent-child households. Whether the child is listed as a co-applicant or essential occupier, they won’t be considered to have received the housing subsidy this time.

Additionally, listing your spouse as an essential occupier can affect financing since only the owner will be able to use their CPF savings and apply for the mortgage to pay for the flat.

Navigating the MOP with essential occupiers

The Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) is a critical timeframe that homeowners need to be aware of, and the role of essential occupiers during this period is pivotal. While they are bound to the MOP restrictions, this commitment also comes with a silver lining. During the MOP, essential occupiers have the time to plan their next steps in the property market, whether it’s upgrading to a larger flat or investing in private property.

For those who are meticulous planners, this period can be used to save and strategize for future property investments. Understanding the implications of the MOP on essential occupiers can help in making informed decisions that align with one’s long-term housing aspirations.

Interest in the flat in the event of the owner’s death

If your spouse is the sole owner and you’re an essential occupier, and in the unfortunate event that your spouse dies without a will, the flat ownership may not automatically go to you. According to the Intestate law, if you don’t have any children, you’ll only get half of the share, while the other half will go towards your spouse’s surviving parents.

Will you add an essential occupier for your HDB purchase? Let us know in the comments below. 

If you found this article helpful, 99.co recommends FAQs: “Can I BTO during MOP?” – Commonly asked questions about buying HDB flat eligibility and Quick guide (with infographic) to BTO and resale HDB grants for singles.

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About Virginia Tanggono

Virginia covers the property news in Singapore, from record sales to profile stories on home ownership. In her free time, she occasionally searches for spoilers of movies and TV shows.

Looking to sell your property?

Whether your HDB apartment is reaching the end of its Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) or your condo has crossed its Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) window, it is always good to know how much you can potentially gain if you were to list and sell your property. Not only that, you’ll also need to know whether your gains would allow you to right-size to the dream home in the neighbourhood you and your family have been eyeing.

One easy way is to send us a request for a credible and trusted property consultant to reach out to you.

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