Welfare recipients to be put in cheaper flats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2003, 12:00am

Welfare recipients will be allocated cheaper and smaller flats under the latest government proposals to reform the rent subsidy system to comply with a court ruling, officials said.

Meanwhile, all new tenants will be offered smaller flats in an attempt to lower the level of rent, according to the proposals by the Housing Department.

The proposals will be discussed at a Housing Authority committee meeting tomorrow.

'These are areas that we need to address when we have to bring down the median rent-to-income ratio and make it in line with what the Housing Ordinance requires,' a government source said.

The Court of First Instance ruled in July that the authority had breached the Housing Ordinance, which specifies that public rents should not be more than 10 per cent of the household's median income.

'I am not saying it is wrong to let [welfare recipients] live in a more spacious environment and have higher quality of living. But now there is this law, we need to address the problems and resolve them,' the source said.

The Housing Department source said the proposals were not designed to discriminate against welfare recipients. 'Our proposal is they be given relatively cheap flats in the same public housing estates compared those who pay the rent on their own,' he said.

'If we do not address this problem, there will be a question of fairness for the taxpayers, because the government will still have to pay for them if they choose to live in the most expensive units.'

Public housing units of the same size are charged the same rents at present, but the Housing Department intends to change this system so flats with better location and views will be more expensive.

Officials said the smaller flats would still meet the minimum space requirement for public housing of at least 75sq ft per tenant.