Rate relief package will ease burden

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 2002, 12:00am

A $2.6 billion rate relief package is to be introduced by the Government to relieve the public's burden amid the deepening economic downturn.

Mr Leung announced the waiver would be increased from the existing $2,000 for each rateable property to $5,000 for this year, relieving about 2.3 million people of the requirement to pay any rates.

The increase will be coupled with lower rates to be charged, as rateable values have dropped by an average of six per cent. It is estimated this will save each home owner $57 a quarter.

The rates payable on flats up to 69.9 square metres will be $768 after a drop in rateable value of seven per cent. For flats up to 99.9 square metres, the rates will be $1,791, representing a drop in rateable value of six per cent. The payment for apartments over 100 square metres will be $4,383 after a drop in rateable value of four per cent.

Mary Yiu, a property owner suffering from negative equity, described the increase in the rates waiver as better than nothing.

'The economic downturn has had a huge impact on the middle class. The thousands of dollars in savings could not rescue us from the trouble,' she said.

Ms Yiu bought a flat in Ho Man Tin for $9.7 million in 1997 but it has lost 40 per cent of its value so far.

She had been paying about $3,000 in rates since the $2,000 rates waiver was introduced last October. Taking into account the additional waiver, she will now have to pay about $500 a quarter.

'I am not going to spend a penny of these savings as there are too many uncertainties like job insecurities. I hope these savings can help restructure my debt,' she said.

Tik Chi-yuen, spokesman for the Hong Kong Negative Equity Revitalisation Organisation, said the rates waiver was only a psychological comfort to negative equity sufferers.

'The rate waiver increase comes as a surprise. But its effect is just psychological. It does little to solve the problem of negative equity,' he said.