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  • Public tenants need to dig deeper
        Date:2018-01-11 

    The Housing Society will increase rents by 8 percent from April 1 at its 20 estates.

    The rise will apply to some 32,000 residential units, following a recent rental review for the years 2018-2020.

    The monthly rent increase per unit will average HK$159 - boosting rents to an average of about HK$2,150.

    The new rents will remain unchanged for two years.

    The society considers the rise to be "relatively moderate," but lawmakers slammed it as excessive.

    The society is a self-financing not-for-profit organization and its rental estates' operating accounts are independent of its other businesses.

    The rent level is determined mainly by operating costs - including the recurrent management expenses, tenancy administration costs, rates and government rents - as well as expenses for major improvement works, repairs and maintenance.

    The society's chief executive, Wong Kit-loong, said operating costs have been on the rise due to higher wages and maintenance costs.

    "It is anticipated that the books will not be balanced even with the rent increases. However, the executive committee, having considered the affordability of our tenants, decided to make a relatively moderate adjustment," he said.

    "We understand that the increment may impact on some of the residents. With an aim to help those with short-term financial difficulties, we decided to implement the rent-assistance scheme from September 1 this year."

    However, all applicants are subject to a means test, with criteria including a total household income below 50 percent of the prevailing waiting-list income limit.

    Eligible residents can apply for 50 percent rent reduction for two years.

    It is expected that 4,000 elderly households, which do not have any income, will benefit from the scheme.

    The well-off tenants policy will also be implemented to ensure more effective allocation of subsidized housing resources, the society said. This policy will only apply to new tenants and in cases of transferring tenancy to a family member other than the spouse.

    These households are required to declare their family income and assets after living in the estate for 10 years and on a biennial basis afterward.

    The households will be required to vacate their rental flats if any family member has acquired ownership of a property in Hong Kong, or the family income exceeds five times the waiting-list income limit.

    Lawmaker Wilson Or Chong-shing, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the increase is "too much."

    "The increase is much higher than inflation. It would put more pressure on tenants," he said, adding the society should consider affordability and inflation when raising rent.



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