Turbulence in global financial markets has given an unexpected boost to Kennedy Town. Angela Wong, manager at one of Centaline Property's three branches in the district, said: "Compared to Mid-Levels, Wan Chai and other districts, Kennedy Town is now more desirable. "Rents are cheaper, there are more open spaces, transportation is more convenient and there is a great sea view." That has made the district more appealing to professionals whose housing allowances have been cut as a result of tighter budgeting by their employers. And while the government's cooling measures in February have dampened activity in both the sales and rental sectors in the district, prices and rentals have continued to rise, due in part to its growing allure to expatriates, said Wong. An 886 sq ft flat at The Merton, one of the largest housing projects in Kennedy Town, recently fetched a monthly rental, all inclusive, of HK$25,000, up from HK$23,000 in July last year. The current asking price for the same unit is HK$12 million from HK$10.3 million in July last year, she said. "We had a client, an investment banker, who recently rented a 1,000 sq ft flat in Belcher's Hill for HK$30,000 a month after his housing allowance was slashed. He used to live in a 1,400 sq ft flat at The Legend in Tai Hang for about HK$60,000," she said. Echoing her view, Midland Realty accounting supervisor Patrick Chan said he expects more people, both locals and expatriates, to take up residence in Kennedy Town before the MTR starts its service to the area in the middle of next year. The overall lower cost of living and better environment makes it a lot more attractive than other parts of the island, he said. "I expect more than 70 per cent of people who are budget conscious will prefer Kennedy Town rather than the eastern districts of the island," he said. "Flats similar to those in Mid-Levels or Wan Chai which command rentals of between HK$20,000 and HK$23,000 a month can easily be fetched in Kennedy Town for only HK$15,000 to HK$19,000." Eduardo Dancel, manager at Jaspa's, said the restaurant chain operator plans to open a second large outlet in Kennedy Town next month as it takes an optimistic view of the district's growth prospects. "Jaspa's has been doing very well since we opened for business last December. This, plus the start of MTR service next year and an expected influx of both locals and expatriates, were major factors that my employer took into account in its decision to open another large restaurant in this area," he said.