What’s the catch?

Thursday, September 24, 2009
Issue 827, Page 2
Word count: 563
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

After more than four years of waiting, applications for social housing are finally open again, for a period of three months between September 28 and December 28.

Although I’m not a Macau citizen and won’t be able to benefit from public housing, I, especially as a journalist, really wonder how many more households will be placed on the waiting list this time, even not to mention the 5,821 households (according to the Housing Bureau director last week) which have already handed in the applications before early 2005 but are still waiting to be allocated.

I guess everywhere in the world it must take time if someone wants to be allocated a flat usually in a public housing estate. But in the case of Macau where the demand of public housing is so prominent, which is of course due to many different reasons such as soaring private property prices and slow public housing construction progress, out of curiosity I went to the Hong Kong Housing Department website yesterday to see how their government is doing in allocating public housing.

In Hong Kong, I’ve heard that if applicants don’t mind living in flats where “unhappiness events” had occurred, they can join an “express scheme” that allows them to “jump the queue”, select a flat they like from the special list, and then move in much quicker than other applicants still on the regular waiting list.

In addition, the new tenants will be offered a 50 percent rent reduction usually for eight months or a year.

So the catch here is “unhappiness events”, generally refer to murder/homicide, suicide, or the former tenants passed away inside the flats – needless to say these are things that are in most cases not welcomed by people, especially (superstitious) Chinese who believe living in such kind of flats is one of the most inauspicious things that could happen in life.

Applicants for the express allocation scheme just started to select the flats they want on Tuesday. I downloaded the list that shows the details of the nearly 1,300 “special flats” available for selection. To be honest I have to say it’s quite interesting to see what made the flats so “cheap”.

It is easy to understand a flat is being placed in the express scheme because someone died there, but when I looked through the list, so many unexpected/surprising reasons came up.

They include “loan shark harassment” upon former occupants, “nuisance from and weird behaviour of neighbour”, “near refuse chamber”, “contaminated flat, back flow of sewage”, “back flow of flush water in toilet”, “near bus stop” (I thought it was an advantage somehow!), “having small toilets”, “near pump/generator”, “near garbage station” and “facing hill slope”.

I’m not sure if the Housing Bureau here has any special allocation scheme like this one in Hong Kong. And if it really doesn’t, I wonder how they will manage houses which have the same situations mentioned above.

The public, especially tenants (for social housing) and buyers (for economic housing), have the right to know what had happened in the flats before they move in.

For some people who aren’t superstitious or concerned much about those problems (weird behaviour of neighbour!?), having such an express allocation mechanism could be a good idea to cut down the number of applicants on the waiting list, when the supply of public housing is still far behind the demand.

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