The Social Welfare Department will withdraw rental assistance from public housing tenants who buy homes through the Tenant Purchase Scheme. The announcement came after 5,000 households received letters from the Housing Department confirming the purchase of their existing flats. The decision on benefits was made last night after the Social Welfare Department studied the new housing scheme's possible effects on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). More than 180,000 people receive public assistance, most living in public housing. 'CSSA was never intended to be a means to enable recipients to acquire assets,' a spokesman said. 'The CSSA payments have been carefully calculated to meet basic needs only and home ownership is not a basic need.' Rent allowance provided for CSSA recipients living in public housing was used for rental payments to the Housing Authority, but not for mortgages, he said. Veteran housing activist Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisations, said the decision was absurd because home owners were still living in the same flats. 'The department will taste a sour apple in future when it has given CSSA recipients no chance to improve their living standard. They will never walk away from the poverty net and will keep relying on assistance as a result.'