Ah Ying, a single mother living with her 11-year-old son in a 160 sq ft subdivided flat in Mong Kok, finally got her public housing unit in Sau Mau Ping last month – after waiting for five years. She should be able to move out of her old place before another rent increase strikes, as the monthly rent has been raised from HK$2,000 to HK$3,500 in the last seven years she spent living in the tiny space. This is on top of another HK$900 she has to fork out for water and electricity bills. Hong Kong government gives HK$150 million to needy local families She receives HK$3,490 in government subsidy, and tries to scrimp where possible, such as recycling water to clean the floor, and buying food sold at lower prices minutes before street market stalls close. Ah Ying is among the 57 per cent of households who live under the government’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme surveyed last month by Concerning CSSA and Low Income Alliance, a concern group. They claimed government rental subsidies are not enough to pay for rising rents. “The situation for low-income families is deteriorating,” Herrick Lee Yen-hao, community organiser at the alliance, said. The alliance surveyed 101 households living under the CSSA scheme in places such as Sham Shui Po,Yau Tsim Mong District and To Kwa Wan between July and August to assess their living conditions. Results showed 40 per cent of respondents had experienced rental increases in the past year by an average of 10.6 per cent. But the rental subsidy granted to them had only been raised by 5.8 per cent this year. Lee said the average rents in Hong Kong have risen for three consecutive months since May, drastically impacting low-income families. He added that 11 per cent of respondents said they were forced to move out because they could not afford the rents. This isn’t social welfare ... Link Reit hits back at Hong Kong chief executive’s rent concerns The cost to rent a subdivided flat is also not cheap if calculated by the price per square foot, Lee said. Two-thirds of low-income households in the survey pay more than HK$30.10 per month for one square foot, which is not far off from the average monthly per square foot rent of HK$31.94 in 50 housing estates across the city in July, according to Ricacorp Properties. Moving out is also not always an option. Another CSSA recipient, who only wanted to be known by his surname Yu, said many low-income households have no choice but to put up with rising rents every year because they cannot pay for the deposit – usually one or two months in advance – for a new flat. “Don’t even think about moving if you don’t have HK$10,000,” Yu said. Lee urged the government to review the rental subsidy mechanism and include factors such as inflation and number of family members into the calculation of subsidy increases.