23 May 2019
Housing Society CEO Wong Kit-loong said tenants will have to pay between HK$41 and HK$610 more each month from April 1. Photo: HKEJ
Housing Society CEO Wong Kit-loong said tenants will have to pay between HK$41 and HK$610 more each month from April 1. Photo: HKEJ

Housing Society to increase rents by 8% from April

The Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) said rents at all units of subsidized housing estates it manages in the city will increase by 8 percent from April this year.

The rate hike, similar to the two previous rent adjustments, will affect some 32,000 units in 20 estates, the self-financing, not-for-profit organization said on Wednesday, adding that the new rates will remain for two years, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The average rent per unit, after the adjustment, will be around HK$2,150, and the average monthly rent increase per unit is HK$159, the HKHS said.

HKHS chief executive Wong Kit-loong said its tenants will have to pay between HK$41 and HK$610 more each month after April 1, with adjusted monthly rents ranging from HK$561 to HK$8,235.

The organization has been increasing its rents every two years since 2010. Following a 3 percent increase in 2010 and 6 percent in 2012, HKHS rents saw an 8 percent increase in 2014 and again in 2016.

Wong said the HKHS executive committee decided on the rent increase after considering the capability of the tenants to pay the higher rates and the rise in operating costs, including wages and maintenance expenses.

He said more resources are needed for repair and maintenance, including some major improvement works, in view of the aging condition of its estates. He also cited the need to enhance the quality of living of the residents.

While some critics said an 8 percent increase was too much compared to Hong Kong’s cumulative inflation and nominal wage growth, Wong said the HKHS still expects to report a loss as a minimum 12 percent increase is needed to balance the books.

Meanwhile, with an aim to help those with short-term financial difficulties, the HKHS announced that it will implement a Rent Assistance Scheme, starting from Sept. 1.

According to Wong, all applicants of the scheme are subject to a means test, which covers five criteria.

Those who meet all the criteria can enjoy 50 percent rent reduction for a term of two years, adding that the eligibility of the beneficiaries will be reviewed biennially.

Lawmaker Wilson Or Chong-shing from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said the HKHS once froze its rents and exempted its residents from one-month rent when it celebrated its 60th anniversary 10 years ago.

He called on the HKHS to do it again this year to ease the tenants’ burden as its 70th anniversary is coming this year.

Also from Sept. 1, the HKHS will implement the Well-off Tenants Policy to ensure a more effective allocation of subsidized housing resources.

Under the policy, households will be required to vacate their rental flats if any of the family members has gained ownership of a property in Hong Kong, or the family income exceeds five times the income limit of the rental estate application, or the total family net asset exceeds 100 times the income limit of the rental estate application.

However, these households are only required to declare their family income and assets only after residing in the estate for ten years and on biennial basis afterwards.

The policy, which has been implemented over the past 30 years, is only applicable to new tenants of its rental estates, the HKHS said.

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