A new law preventing the Government from increasing public housing rents for three years after the last review was passed in the early hours. Leung Yiu-chung of The Frontier tabled the original Housing (Amendment) (No 3) Bill 1996, which sought to prevent rent increases exceeding the inflation rate. But an amendment by Chan Kam-lam of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong ensured the level of increase would not exceed 10 per cent of current average income. Another proposal by Lee Wing-tat of the Democratic Party, a Housing Authority member, for rent increases to be kept at two percentage points below the inflation rate was voted down. Bruce Liu Sing-lee of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, who supported the bill, said providing public rental flats for the grassroots was crucial for a stable community. 'Since more than half the population of Hong Kong lives in public rental flats, it is very important for the Government to keep rents at a reasonable level,' he said. The Secretary for Housing, Dominic Wong Shing-wah, described Mr Leung's private member's bill as irresponsible and unreasonable. Mr Wong said the bill was against the principle of fair distribution of resources and would have a negative financial impact. 'It is wrong to restrict rent increases to below inflation because people's ability to pay should relate to their income. Legislators are making a false assumption and this suggestion is impractical,' Mr Wong said. At present, rents for public rental housing are determined by the Housing Authority mainly on the basis of tenants' ability to pay. Rents are normally reviewed every two years.