Pay-per-view rent scheme under fire

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 March, 2006, 12:00am

A proposal to charge higher-than-normal rents to public housing tenants living on upper floors or in flats with views has been criticised as discriminatory.

Members of the Legislative Council's housing panel also accused the Housing Authority of using the review as an excuse to increase rents for the 600,000 families in public housing.

The proposal is part of a review released last week by the authority for a three-month public consultation, which the authority says is aimed at achieving a 'more rational and flexible' rent structure.

Under the 'differential rents' system, rents in the same public block would be adjusted according to floor levels, view and orientation, and proximity to unwelcome facilities like rubbish chambers.

Rents of upper floor flats with good views could be up to 30 per cent higher than those of flats on lower floors and with unpleasant surroundings. The proposed measure will apply only to newly built public estates.

'It is a highly discriminatory measure,' Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood legislator Frederick Fung Kin-kee said.

Abraham Razack, of The Alliance, said it would be unfair to tenants living close to rubbish chambers if their rents were not reduced.

Democrat Lee Wing-tat agreed and said the authority should reduce the rents for existing tenants first. 'The rent review is a side issue. The real issue is that public rents have taken up more than 10 per cent of tenants' incomes and it is against the law,' said Mr Lee, referring to the Housing Ordinance, which caps public rents at 10 per cent of tenants' median income.

Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Thomas Chan Chun-yuen said it had never been the authority's intention to take advantage of the review to increase rents, adding that overall rental revenue would remain more or less the same under the proposed change. The authority's rental account had a deficit of $11.4 billion between 1993-94 and 2004-05, according to the authority.

Before the panel meeting, 50 public tenants protested outside Legco against the rent review.