The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) announced on Tuesday that single people whose total monthly household income does not exceed HK$60,000 will now be eligible for the subsidised flats at Kai Tak’s De Novo development.

The move is a departure from its original policy, which had excluded single people from the subsidised-sale flat scheme.

In addition to the restriction on monthly income, the applicant must also have a net asset value of under HK$3 million and must not have held residential property during the past five years. The URA also said that it “has no plan to set a quota for single-person households” and that there will be no priority given for flat selection.

De Novo construction site in June 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
De Novo construction site in June 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The De Novo, which is the URA’s first subsidised housing project, consists of four blocks and 484 flats in total. It is located at Kai Tak to the west of Tak Long Estate and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. In July, the URA said that 338 of the flats will be sold as subsidised units at 80 percent of the market price, and that they will only be offered to couples and families.

According to sources cited by RTHK, the U-turn in policy may have been made in response to suggestions made by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The EOC confirmed that it wrote to the URA reminding them of the law after a member of the public lodged a complaint to the EOC, saying that the policy announced in July was discriminatory. The management then reportedly made the decision in order to avoid having to face a possible legal challenge. However, the policy change was made without first submitting it to the board of directors for deliberation.

Wu Chi wai
Wu Chi-wai. File Photo: Wikicommons.

Wu Chi-wai, non-executive director of the URA, criticised the income limit of HK$60,000, saying that single people who earned that amount every month belonged to the high income group and that the URA has no reason to subsidise them. He also said that this went against the intention of the policy. Wu urged the URA to drop the decision, Ming Pao reported.

The Federation of Public Housing Estates Chairman Wong Kwun said that the move would set a bad precedent and that it would turn De Novo into a “singles’ paradise”, neglecting the housing needs of families.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.