Means test for home-seekers gets go-ahead

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 September, 1998, 12:00am

A controversial plan to make more than 300,000 prospective public housing tenants undergo a means test was given the go-ahead yesterday.

But Housing Authority members softened their stance by increasing the asset limit.

Public housing applicants were previously capped only by monthly income assessment. But starting from today they are also required to meet an asset limit which includes savings, vehicles and investments.

For a family of four people, apart from the monthly income limit of $17,700, their net assets must not exceed $470,000.

The amount is equivalent to the family renting a 500 sq ft flat at $6,500 monthly in the property market for six consecutive years - an average waiting time for a public rental flat applicant.

The Housing Authority originally proposed setting a limit at $390,000.

The move will affect all 140,000 people already on the waiting list and more than 200,000 living in squats, temporary housing areas and rooftop structures.

Exemptions will be given to 3,000 families living in temporary housing areas since before September 23, 1995.

'We have pledged to re-house these people upon clearance for redevelopment. But after we announced our demolition plan latecomers could only be treated as a normal applicant to go through the means test under the new policy,' said Chan Kam-man, the Housing Authority's rental housing committee chairman.

More than 6,600 households awaiting clearance as squatters will also get exemption. Andrew Lai Chi-wah, of the Housing Department, said the measure was to guarantee limited housing resources went to those most urgently in need.

'Say we had two taxi drivers applying for a public rental flat. One might own a licence and just sit back and rent out his car. The other might have to drive 10 hours a day to make living. It is clear who should benefit first from the scheme,' Mr Lai said.

'The first driver could still opt for other housing but a cheap rental flat is the only choice for the poorer driver,' he said.

But the explanation could not convince more than 100 protesters who staged an overnight protest outside the Housing Authority headquarters.

'The measure is to discourage people from having savings and bar people from upgrading their poor living standards,' claimed Chan Ching-wa, a squatters' social worker.