By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The government has proposed relaxing the ceilings of total income and net assets for social housing by 16 to 20 percent. However, the Housing Bureau is yet to announce the date of the new round of applications.
The proposal arose in response to the increases in various livelihood measures such as financial subsidies, age pensions and the minimum subsistence index this year, which has had some households currently living in social housing and applicants on the waiting list exceed monthly income caps.
Vice-president of the Public Housing Affairs Committee, Leong Keng Seng, told reporters after a meeting yesterday that the government has also proposed a retrospective date of July 1 this year to coincide with the effective date of the chief executive dispatch that approved a new method of calculation of social housing rental amounts.
According to the information provided by the Housing Bureau, the income ceiling of a one-member household should rise from MOP 6,000 to MOP 7,000, while that of a four-member household should increase from MOP 12,800 to MOP 15,030.
The upper limits of total net assets for a one-member and four-member household are also expected to be increased respectively from MOP 129,600 to MOP 151,200 and from MOP 279,480 and to MOP 324,650.
Under the current rules, a social housing household will be required to pay heavier rents if their total monthly income exceeds the caps stipulated in the 297/2009 Chief Executive dispatch.
Leong said the committee members “basically agreed with” the government’s proposal, but added that they hoped “there will be room to further raise the caps in the future” so that more low-income families can become eligible to apply for social housing.
However, he disclosed that some members also expressed their concerns over increased demands for social housing as a result of the relaxations in application requirements.
“If the government is to build more social housing, would that mean that fewer affordable housing units would be built?” he questioned.
Yet, the Housing Bureau confirmed that it was not yet certain when social housing applications would open again, since the last round was in late 2009.
The draft law for the construction and sale system of affordable housing, currently under deliberation at the Legislative Assembly, has proposed to use the social housing income caps as the income floors of affordable housing.
Leong said some members of the Public Housing Affairs Committee deemed that such connection is not necessary, while others argued that it could help the government forecast the demands for public housing.
When asked whether applicants who were disqualified previously because they failed to meet the income requirements could restore their eligibility and the original selection priority on the waiting list, Leong said the government did not mention this arrangement to the committee yesterday.