Housing subsidy for N-nothings

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am


Up to 12,000 residents who slip through the city's safety net of welfare and relief measures will get a one-off housing subsidy in a HK$60 million giveaway from the Community Care Fund, Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Siu-lung said.

The proposal prompted a call from one lawmaker to turn the scheme into regular welfare for the grass roots.

The plan is aimed at so-called N-nothings - a loosely defined group of people who cannot benefit from any of the relief measures offered in the annual budget because they are not welfare recipients, taxpayers or public housing residents.

Tenants of subdivided flats or bed spaces are set to get help from the HK$10 billion government/business fund, following criticism that the latest budget neglected the N-nothings.

'The scheme we are considering aims to help those who are inadequately housed, as we understand their difficulties in coping with daily life,' Lam said yesterday.

Those eligible could receive an allowance equivalent to two months of their rent, he said.

Applicants must pass income limits to be set out by the fund, but existing beneficiaries of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance will not qualify, nor will property owners.

'We do not want to have people obtaining double benefits,' Lam said. 'We do not know how much each family will receive, but we will make reference to those who live in public housing' in the wake of a two-month rental waiver for tenants of public rental flats under the last budget.

'The monthly rent for a single tenant in public housing is about HK$900. This is a standard we will make reference to,' he said.

'We believe the financial implications of this scheme will be limited - somewhere between HK$50 million and HK$60 million.'

Democrats lawmaker Wong Sing-chi said the one-off subsidy was only a short-term measure to ease the outcry of the city's neediest people.

'This is just a way for the government to temporarily smooth grievances from N-nothings, who are angered by the last budget,' Wong said.

'The subsidy should not be a one-off thing. It should be regular welfare for the grass roots.'

The last budget with its HK$80 billion worth of tax relief was criticised as a measure to please the middle class. Lawmakers have long berated Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah for neglecting the N-nothings, who are not entitled to tax rebates or bonus welfare payments, mainly because their wages are too low to fall into the tax net.

They are also not entitled to public housing rent waivers because they are still in the queue for a flat and live in a subdivided private flat. They may not even benefit from the electricity subsidy as it goes to the landlord.

Welfare sector legislator Peter Cheung Kwok-che welcomed the proposal, but said the income limits should not be tighter than those for public housing residents.