A leading government adviser has urged authorities to raise the minimum age for Hong Kong public housing tenants exempt from declaring assets, pointing to the city’s growing elderly population.
Cleresa Wong Pie-yue, chairwoman of the Subsidised Housing Committee at the Housing Authority, on Monday said the age threshold for tenants spared from an income and asset assessment should be increased from 60 to 65.
“The current wait for public housing is 5.3 years but the city’s population is ageing quickly. If the exemption on households with all members aged 60 or above continues, it will have a huge impact on public housing turnover,” Wong told a radio programme.
But the authority, the city’s major public housing builder, said the government had to be careful to “strike the fine balance”. It added that it welcomed the views of interested parties.
“The proposal of postponing [the] age of exemption may render some households, which no longer have a steady income, ineligible to stay in their [public rental housing] units,” the spokeswoman said.
“After all, public housing policies seek to maintain social stability and we must take heed of the potential impacts on tenants in the course of [policymaking].”
The authority added that society had shown greater kindness and understanding of the needs of the elderly in the allocation of public resources. including housing.
Public flats at present house around 190,000 households with all members aged 60 or more, about a quarter of all tenants.
Under the “Well-off Tenants Policies”, those who have been living in public rental flats for 10 years are required to declare their income and assets every two years, with households that exceed the threshold expected to pay more in rent and rates.
Tenants whose income is five times higher than the limit or own assets that are 100 times greater than the permitted amount, or who own property in the city, will have to vacate their flats.
Families of four will be asked to leave if their total monthly income reaches more than HK$154,750 (US$19,753) or their net asset value is greater than HK$3.1 million.
Wong said 60 was not considered old and people of that age were still capable of working, according to current societal standards. She denied her proposal would compel elderly tenants to leave the flats.
“[Residents below the age of 65] will just need to make a declaration like other households,” she said. “If they have to pay extra rent, it matches with our principle of rationally distributing public flats … They will also need to move out if they exceed the income and asset limit.”
When asked whether her proposal would affect other housing policies for elderly residents, Wong said the government could conduct a review and make any feasible changes to the proposal.
The Housing Authority in May endorsed new measures to crack down on well-off tenants in public flats.
People who have lived in public housing for two years will have to undergo an income and asset assessment every two years from October.