By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On has disclosed yesterday that the income ceilings on affordable housing applications may be raised in the future so that the middle class can also be taken care of by the public housing policy.
In response to lawmaker Melinda Chan Mei Yi’s inquiry concerning what specific measures the Government has in mind to help the sandwich class in Macau to buy property, the Chief Executive stressed that the most important task right now is to complete the construction of 19,000 public housing units by the end of 2012 as promised.
A number of lawmakers had expressed concerns over the living pressure of the middle-income group, who they said cannot benefit from the public housing policy nor afford to buy property in the private market.
The Chief Executive, who was answering lawmakers’ questions at the Legislative Assembly following the announcement of the 2010 Policy Address on Tuesday, assured that the middle class is an “important component” of Macau, adding the Government will soon implement research on the definition of middle class.
He said that the Government is studying a relaxation on the income ceilings imposed on affordable housing applicants, in order to “support Macau’s middle-income group”.
“There are opinions saying the cap on a two-member household should be raised from MOP 25,000 to MOP 30,000. The Government supports it but more discussions are needed,” Fernando Chui Sai On told the lawmakers.¥
The selling price of affordable housing may also be around MOP 1,100 per square foot, he added, as having proposed by the Public Housing Affairs Committee previously.
However, the Chief Executive reiterated that a “clear division” is necessary between the public housing and private property markets.
Hence, he said a longer lock-up period will be proposed in the revision of the affordable housing legislation.
President of the Housing Bureau Tam Kuong Man has disclosed in early October that the lock-up period for affordable housing may be significantly raised from six to 16 years in the future.
Tam also said the revision bill has already been delivered to the Executive Council. But the Chief Executive yesterday did not mention about when the bill can be presented to the legislature.
Meanwhile, lawmakers Chan Meng Kam and Ho Ion Sang also deemed that the 2011 Policy Address has overlooked the hardships of the middle-income group.
The Chief Executive responded that a series of tax cuts and a lifelong learning subsidy have been proposed, and the Government will step up the implementation of the professional certification system in the year ahead, in a bid to allow the middle class to “move upwards”.
He pointed out that Macau needs to define the meaning of middle-income group based on the local situations.
Hong Kong and mainland China, for example, define the middle class as households who earn respectively between HK$70,000 and HK$600,000 and between 10,000 yuan and 400,000 yuan, a range that the Chief Executive describes as “very wide”.