poor, says housing official A senior housing official said yesterday public housing tenants were not as poor as many people might think when she argued against calls by legislators to cut rents at flats and shops. Acting Secretary for Housing Elaine Chung Lai-kwok said cuts were not a reasonable use of public resources and that existing rents were very low. She said many public housing tenants were better off financially than private tenants and cited government figures from the second quarter of last year that showed 140,000 public housing tenants earned more than $20,000 a month - compared to about 90,000 families renting private units whose incomes were less than $5,000 a month. Legislators yesterday endorsed a non-binding motion calling for rents for elderly tenants to be cut by half and a 30 per cent rent reduction for six months for shopkeepers on public estates. But Ms Chung said: 'As a responsible Government, we should use our resources to help those in genuine need.' About 400,000, or two-thirds of public housing tenants, are paying less than $1,500 a month for rent, with the lowest rent $241, Ms Chung said. The Housing Authority is running at a deficit of about $2.7 billion a year in managing public rental estates. This translated into a government subsidy of about $4,000 a year for each tenant, Ms Chung said. Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan, who sponsored the motion, said the Government had huge reserves it could draw on to help the needy survive the downturn. Legislator Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said: 'The Housing Authority said the income ceiling for public housing should be lowered because rents in the private sector have dropped. Why does it not cut public rents accordingly?' But non-affiliated legislator Ng Leung-sing, who is also a Housing Authority member, said: 'A rent cut for shops on public estates will be unfair to those shopkeepers in the private market. It will lead to unfair competition.' The authority is re-assessing the rentals for shops on public estates. About 11,000 shopkeepers have applied for re-assessment and 3,000 of them have been granted on average a 20 per cent rent reduction, with one shopkeeper winning a 76 per cent cut. Speaking after a housing conference earlier yesterday, Director of Housing Tony Miller said: 'Some businesses make good profit even in recession, we therefore prefer to deal with each of our tenants on an individual basis. Giving a 30 per cent reduction across-the-board would give help to those who don't need it at the expense of those who need it more.'