Community Care Fund offers cash assistance to poor for housing

One-off payment aims to help the city's neediest people with high housing costs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 4:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 5:15am

More than 200,000 underprivileged people can expect to benefit early next year from a one-off subsidy of up to HK$10,000 from the Community Care Fund to assist with housing costs.

The public-private fund announced yesterday that it would set aside HK$640 million to assist needy households.

The fund's chairman, Law Chi-kwong, hopes to identify a specific group of low-income people who do not receive CSSA and do not live in public rental housing.

The fund plans to include homeless people and the estimated 5,000 people living in subdivided homes in illegally converted factory buildings in the scheme.

Law said he did not believe the proposed housing subsidy would necessarily lead to landlords increasing rents.

"Rents are determined by many factors that cannot be controlled by [the fund]," he said. "I hope the project won't affect rents too much and [that landlords will] take care of low-income tenants living in hardship."

People who wish to apply for the subsidy have to meet several criteria. They must be living in private accommodation, industrial or commercial buildings, or renting bed spaces. Homeless people and members of ethnic minorities who meet the criteria can also apply.

Law said, to assist minorities, promotional materials would be printed in six minority languages and announcements would be made at schools. The fund also aims to make use of the 247 non-government organisations across the city to spread the word.

To be eligible for the scheme, a single person must earn no more than HK$8,880 per month; a two-person household no more than HK$13,750, and a household with three or more people no more than HK$18,310.

Under the scheme, a single person could get a one-off payment of HK$3,500; a two-person household could get HK$7,000, while a household of three or more could receive HK$10,000.

About 20,000 families who have received assistance from previous Community Care Fund schemes, including elderly tenants, will automatically receive notification and can confirm their eligibility if their conditions have not changed.

The application period will be rolled out in three phases from January 2 to August 29.

Oxfam's Hong Kong Programme Manager Wong Shek-hung believed the one-off payment would provide only short-term assistance to those living in hardship. "I am worried the subsidy could provide an excuse for landlords to push up the city's already expensive rents," she said.

She suggested the authorities consider more long-term measures, such as accelerating the process to deal with applications on public rental housing.