Preschool frenzy could raise Hong Kong rents further

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 8:27am

The scramble for kindergarten places in North District may bring unintended benefits for those in the area with flats to rent.

Property agents are keeping an eye on a government measure that is under consideration - to give children living closest to a preschool priority enrolment if there are not enough places - which may further raise rents that they claim have doubled in the past two years.

They expect the move to boost demand for properties near popular kindergartens and push up rents by at least 10 per cent this year.

For instance, demand for flats in Tsui Lai Garden and Sheung Shui Wai had grown as they are only a five-minute walk from two popular preschools, Fung Kai Kindergarten and Sheung Shui Church Kindergarten, Thomas Kwong of Sheung Shui Property Agency said.

"Mainland parents are hungry for those flats as they may stand a higher chance of securing places for their children in the nearby schools," he said, adding that more than 80 per cent of the rental deals closed by his agency involved mainlanders.

The proposed measure was announced on Tuesday to assure local parents of preschool places for their children if demand outstripped supply, in the wake of sizeable numbers of mainlanders flocking to border kindergartens to queue up for application forms for the 2014-15 academic year.

Kwong said that two years ago, a 669 sq ft three-room flat at Tsui Lai would be rented for HK$5,000 a month, but prices had since risen nearly 60 per cent to HK$8,000. The demand had prompted property owners to subdivide their flats and lease each unit at about HK$5,000 a month, and even so, the units were snapped up, he said.

Kwong said interest in the resale market was not as intense, however, because the government's cooling measures made it hard for mainlanders to buy flats.

Apart from property agencies, the proposed measure may also benefit another kind of business. Near Tsui Lai Garden and Wai Chow Public School, fliers were everywhere promoting the child-care services of a nanny charging about HK$9,000 a month.

Tai Po district councillor Francis Yam Kai-bong worried that such a business would affect locals' priority for preschool places, as mainland children could use their Hong Kong nannies' addresses to apply. "If the business grows bigger or is run in an organised manner, our local children will find it more difficult to secure a school place over the mainlanders," he said.

Jiang Wen, a Shenzhen mother of a two-year-old, said they were prepared to pay HK$20,000 a month to rent a flat in Sha Tin to help get their son into a Hong Kong kindergarten next year. "I have applied for four kindergartens in Sheung Shui but the competition is too intense," she said. "There are only about 100 places for more than 1,000 children."