The government has ended a one-off living allowance for the city’s neediest group, called “N have-nots”. The term refers to low-income people who do not own property, do not live in public rental housing, and do not receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA).
Community Care Fund Task Force chairman Dr Law Chi-kwong told the media that the allowance offered by the public-private fund had been suspended because waivers for public housing rents in this year’s budget had been removed. The waivers were a relief measure which had been in place since 2008. They drew complaints from the N have-nots, who did not benefit.
The fund and the Commission on Poverty both agreed with the decision, Law said.
The living allowance was launched in 2014. This year, an eligible single person was offered a one-off sum of about HK$4,000. Households of two and five received HK$8,000 and HK$14,000 respectively.
The allowance will not be available next year.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said on Sunday that eligible households could apply for the low-income working family allowance, which was launched earlier this year. And singles could still apply for the work incentive transport subsidy.
Sze Lai-shan, community organiser for the Hong Kong Society for Community (SoCO), told Young Post yesterday that the government has no concrete reasons for halting the allowance.
“The removal of waivers for public housing rents has nothing to do with the one-off living allowance for the N have-nots, since public-housing rent is much lower. The N have-nots suffer high rents, electricity bills and water charges. They are desperately looking for extra help, especially singles, who are not eligible for anything, including the low-income working family allowance,” Sze says.
Young Post cadet Bakhita Fung, 15, from Island School, was shocked at the government’s decision to axe the living allowance for the N have-nots.
“The housing policies are hopeless. For instance, you probably need more than four years to get into public housing. The one-off living allowance is very important because it can relieve the financial pressure of those who have been paying an outrageously high rent and desperately waiting for public housing,” says Bakhita. “If the government has to axe this allowance, they should have either provided sufficient public housing units for the N have-nots, or carried out rent control scheme. The government this time is very cruel, and I am sorry for the needy.”