25 April 2019
The Housing Society said about 13,000 owners of subsidized flats are eligible under the new scheme. Photo: HKEJ
The Housing Society said about 13,000 owners of subsidized flats are eligible under the new scheme. Photo: HKEJ

Subsidized flat owners may rent out spare rooms under new scheme

The Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) has launched a scheme allowing owners of subsidized flats to rent out their spare rooms to families waiting for public housing.

About 13,000 owners of HKHS flats are qualified under the “Letting Scheme for Subsidised Sale Developments with Premium Unpaid”, which is based on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s suggestion in her policy address last year, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The scheme covers 21 housing developments, including 11 under the Flat-for-Sale Scheme and the rest from the Sandwich Class Housing Scheme.

The qualified flats are located in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, the HKHS said, adding that the Lands Department will issue waivers for the land premiums.

Under the rules of the letting scheme, a qualified unit must have at least two bedrooms and the owner, who is required to have owned the title of the unit for at least 10 years, must retain one for self-use while renting out the rest, meaning a tenant has to live with the owner and share the kitchen and the bathroom(s).

Eligible tenants are those who have been waiting for public rental housing for at least three years.

As for the rent, the HKHS said it will be set through negotiations between the owner and the tenant. The former can file their applications immediately while the latter can do so from the end of October.

Calling the new scheme attractive, HKHS chief executive and executive director Wong Kit-loong said there are many vacant bedrooms in such units at the moment.

Wong said the negotiated rent is likely to be lower than market rates since support facilities in subsidized housing are not comparable to those in private residential estates.

However, he acknowledged that disputes may arise between owners and tenants since they will be living under the same roof.

The Federation of Public Housing Estates expressed support for the scheme, saying it may help release as many as 250,000 other similar units for rental purposes in the future should it prove successful.

But Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who is deputy chairman of the Legislative Council’s housing panel, said the scheme is unlikely to ease the housing crisis as he estimated that only one in ten owners of the 13,000 qualified units will join it.

Wan urged the HKHS to get the other 250,000 subsidized housing units to participate in a similar scheme as soon as possible.

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