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Tuesday, November 1, 2016, 01:10

HA tightens eligibility for public housing

By Luis Liu

HONG KONG - The Housing Authority (HA) has decided to tighten the policy for well-off tenants living in public housing flats to address long waiting times for the needy.

The change will see tenants with either income or assets exceeding certain thresholds asked to vacate their flats.

Currently, tenants surpassing both income and asset limits need to move out. Households with income exceeding three times the public rental housing (PRH) income limit and assets exceeding 84 times the income limit are required to vacate their flats within 12 months.

The Housing Authority has decided to tighten the policy for well-off tenants living in public housing flats to address long waiting times for the needy

Now calling it a single-track system, Chairman of the HA’s Subsidized Housing Committee Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said the move is to maximize the utility of public resources.

The authority will discuss the details in future meetings, Wong said.

For a single applicant for PRH, the current income limit is HK$10,970 a month, and a net asset limit of HK$242,000. As of the end of June 2016, about 26,000 households were “well-off tenants”, according to HA statistics.

Wong said property owners who live in public housing should also vacate their flats.

The HA will also reduce the chances for those who want to move to a larger PRH unit as their family grows, so that the quotas can be met for those still waiting in line.

However, Wong did not give an estimate of how many people can benefit from such changes.

It is understood that the HA plans to make relevant policy changes as the average waiting time for a PRH applicant has increased to 4.5 years. Wong admitted it “deviated” from the original three-year waiting time target.

He said the government has managed to provide 15,200 public housing units this year and will provide 71,000 more in the next five years.

“Based on the construction of many sites in urban areas, public housing supply will catch up with the demand by 2020,” Wong said.

The HA’s “Well-off Tenants Policies”, officially named the Housing Subsidy Policy (HSP) and the Policy on Safeguarding Rational Allocation of Public Housing Resources (SRA), require households after living in PRH for 10 years to declare their household income, and thereafter biennially.

Those who earn two to three times the income limit are required to pay 1.5 times net rent plus rates, while those with income exceeding three times the income limit are required to pay double net rent plus rates.

However, some local concern groups are opposed to the HA’s policy changes. Chairman of the Federation of Public Housing Estates Wong Kwan said the problem lies solely in insufficient public housing supply. Changes will not help address the current woes but will stir new social discontent as they will affect many tenants who will still face financial hardships in the private rental market, he said.

He urged the government to speed up construction of public housing units.

The Society for Community Organization urged the government to build up transitional flats for short-term needs.

According to the Rating and Valuation Department’s monthly price index, Hong Kong home prices rose 2.78 percent in September from August, the highest month-to-month growth rate since the market recovery began in April. It was the sixth consecutive monthly increase.

luisliu@chinadailyhk.com
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