Hong Kong housing

Public housing policy shake-up could slash wait times, but there’s bad news for existing tenants

Subsidised housing committee to discuss proposals involving major policy changes, source says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 11:38pm

Richer tenants may be kicked out of public housing to free up flats for those on the waiting list, under a controversial Housing Authority proposal that was agreed to in principle yesterday.

Authority members gave positive feedback during the meeting as the chairman sent out a dire warning that the average waiting time for a subsidised unit would continue to deviate from the three-year pledge due to the shortage of land and a preference for flats in urban districts. The average waiting time in September had reached 4.5 years.

But the proposal triggered ­opposition from public housing tenants, who urged the government to build temporary housing for those in need instead of picking on rich tenants without bringing private property prices down.

Hong Kong public housing eligibility rules set to be tightened

According to government ­statistics, the rent for private homes has hit a new high since December.

Authority chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said after the meeting the authority only had enough land to build around 97,000 subsidised flats in the next five years – which is only 35 per cent of the 10-year target of 280,000 units.

“We have reason to believe that the average waiting time may deviate [from the target three years] for a while,” said Wong.

At present, those who earn more than three times the public rental housing income limit need to pay double the rent plus rates. For a single person, the income limit is HK$10,970 a month. If these tenants’ total net assets ­exceed 84 times the limit, or HK$921,480 for a single person, they need to move out within a year.

As of the end of June, about 26,000 out of 738,700 households were regarded as rich tenants.

Under the proposal, tenants with either monthly income ­exceeding four or five times the limit, or with net assets exceeding 100 times the limit, will need to move out. Tenants with private flats also need to ­vacate their public housing units, regardless of ­income levels or assets.

Public housing waiting time now 4.1 years as observers say government has failed to deliver

Wong said authority members had agreed with the proposal in principle but would still need more details from the government to make a final decision on whether to approve the plan.

Members will also discuss further proposals that would make it harder for current public housing tenants to apply for new flats.

But they approved three ­measures that would not require policy changes. These included reserving 1,000 flats instead of 2,000 for relocating overcrowded families and enhancing enforcement against abuses such as leaving flats empty or subletting.

The measures will take effect from April.

But Wong Kwun, chairman of the Federation of Public Housing Estates, said many rich tenants would still find private housing unaffordable. He said the government should allocate more land to build public housing and that the authority should increase the number of flats planned, as well as building temporary, recyclable housing for short-term demand.

“When the supply is up and the property prices come down, we can then discuss how to ­handle rich tenants,” Wong said.

Additional reporting by Peace Chiu