Subsidised Hong Kong homeowners to sublet flats more freely

Housing authority approves proposal allowing homeowners to sublet units without paying premium

Tourist junk boat over Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. FS11/Shutterstock

Owners of subsidised flats in Hong Kong will no longer have to pay premiums to sublet their homes, the Housing Authority announced.

The South China Morning Post is reporting that some 340,000 subsidised home owners are eligible for the new scheme due to launch in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Eligible home owners include those who owned their units for more than 10 years, while eligible tenants comprise those who have been waiting for public housing for more than three years. Prospective tenants who are non-elderly and single should have been waiting for at least six years.

Imposing the 10-year limit will keep speculators from taking advantage of the scheme and flipping public homes, the Housing Authority explained.

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Waiting times for public housing in Hong Kong hover at 5.5 years on average for general applicants and 2.9 years for single, elderly applicants, the Post noted.

The Federation of Public Housing Estates hoped for the rents in sublet units to be competitive though. “If the owners set the price at market rate, many applicants would rather live somewhere else,” said the federation’s executive director Anthony Chiu Kwok-wai.

Lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin was less conciliatory, criticising the proposal for veering from its initial goals. “People are worried about expensive rents and now once you raise rental area without putting a cap on rental price, tenants will be forced to rent a larger and more expensive living space.”

Renting subsidised flats generally cost from HKD10,000 (USD1,280) to HKD20,000 a month, Wan reported.