Successful public housing applicants will be given the option of taking cash vouchers to rent a flat on the private market under a pilot scheme this summer. The scheme will see vouchers amounting to about two-thirds of the rent cost issued to would-be public housing tenants. A senior housing official said the change was part of the Government's move to further retreat from the property market as announced by Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen last September. 'There are ample residential flats available in the private sector. We should ensure the private sector can play its role in housing,' he said. The official said the authority had studied private flat rents and a detailed mechanism to determine the amount of subsidies would be set up. 'The amount of subsidies will be enough for them to rent a flat with similar space [to public housing ones],' he said. A quota would be set for the pilot scheme and it would be increased if the response is good. Another official said that renting privately would give applicants more choice: 'They might not want to live in Tin Shui Wai, but want something in Wan Chai. And if we cannot provide them with public rental housing in Wan Chai, why not give them a voucher for them to choose.' She estimated that a public housing tenant received about $1 million in subsidies from public coffers if they stayed in public housing for 40 years. 'The Housing Authority would be able to reduce its subsidies on public housing under a rent-subsidy system. The savings will be quite substantial,' she said. Ho Hei-wah of the Society of Community Organisation said the rent subsidy scheme would benefit some low-income people who wanted subsidised housing in their home districts. Property agent Cheung Kam-shing said the new scheme would give a boost to renting out low-price properties. The first official rejected demands from some developers and analysts for the Home Ownership Scheme to be scrapped. 'We have to keep the Home Ownership Scheme to help maintain a balance,' the official said.