Should Hong Kong introduce rent control?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am


Melody Cheung, 16, St Paul's Secondary School

I do not think the government is justified in controlling rents and if you do think so, you may have overlooked some of the following facts and consequences.

Firstly, Hong Kong is renowned for its free market economy. It has been ranked the world's freest economy by US conservative think thank the Heritage Foundation for 17 consecutive years since the Index of Economic Freedom was first published. Hong Kong takes advantage of this rating to attract investors from around the globe to inject capital into the city and in this way it has flourished.

If rents are controlled, won't this violate a long-established system? It would be hard to estimate the economic consequences if investors lost their confidence and withdrew capital.

Secondly, if we allow the government to intervene, there are many difficult questions that first need answering. How will it adjust rents for the different types, sizes and ages of flats? What standards will it use for reducing the rent? How long should it control rents for? How can fairness and transparency be achieved? How can it strike a balance between the interests of tenants and flat owners?

Thirdly, rent control will inevitably affect the relationship between tenants and landlords.

If rents are forcibly reduced, owners may provide poorer quality flats to tenants, and may not provide furniture.

Tenants might also have to pay for maintenance and repairs, which are now included in contracts.

In short, rent control is not a practical way to slow down rent rises in Hong Kong.

Yuen Hui-ling, 16, Diocesan Girls' School

Shelter is a basic necessity. Even the Neanderthals had caves for security. So why is it that nearly 80,000 years on we cannot even provide shelter for our citizens?

Recent reports showed that 1.26 million Hongkongers lived under the poverty line, and most had no access to public housing. Some were too far down the application queue, while others were not eligible.

Renting is the only way these people will ever get a roof over their heads.

However, tenants are vulnerable as Hong Kong's pro-landlord policies allow property owners to raise rents according to market prices. But higher costs of living and low incomes do not allow tenants the same flexibility as owners.

Also without legal protection or insurance, tenants can be evicted if they do not agree to the higher rents.

Since 2004, a landlord need give tenants only one month's notice before throwing them out.

This is where rent control comes in. It is up to the government to ensure people's basic right to shelter. Rent control will monitor owners and rents and give tenants legal protection.

Some may believe intervention contradicts Hong Kong's free market economy, while landlords fear an imbalance of rights. However, rent control is not intended to restrict owners.

With careful tenancy regulations and regular policy revision, it is possible to strike an acceptable rental balance.