Rent rise put off until better times

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 July, 2002, 12:00am

The Housing Authority chairman has ruled out public-flat rent increases until the economy improves.

Dr Cheng Hon-kwan also said he opposed the government's proposal to have the new Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands chair the statutory body.

Concerns over rent rises surfaced recently when former director of housing Tony Miller - now Permanent Secretary for Financial Services - urged the scrapping of the 'bad' Housing Ordinance which caps public rents at 10 per cent of tenants' incomes. Dr Cheng said Mr Miller had not discussed with him the idea, which he described as the former director's 'personal opinion'.

'There are a lot of factors to consider when determining public rents: tenants' ability to pay, joblessness, and the overall social situation,' said Dr Cheng in an interview on RTHK yesterday.

'Based on the present economic situation, it is not the right time to consider increasing rents,' added Dr Cheng.

On the housing reforms announced last month by Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Dr Cheng believed the authority would still be representative, despite being turned into an advisory body, so long as members were appointed from various community sectors.

The authority will also be chaired by the new Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Michael Suen Ming-yeung.

Dr Cheng, whose term will expire in September, said: 'There is rarely a government advisory body which is chaired by a government official. His opinions might not be objective.'

Hong Kong People's Council on Housing Policy spokesman Lau Kar-wah said the chairman should be elected from among authority members. He also fears the housing secretary will not weigh public views objectively.