Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made history by giving this year’s policy address via video last Wednesday. She tried to deliver it in the Legislative Coucil, but pro-democratic lawmakers kept booing her.
After nearly four months of anti-government protests, Lam had the chance to address Hong Kong’s biggest political crisis since the handover. But she didn’t say a single word about the protesters’ five demands. Instead, she focused on solving the city’s housing problems, helping the poor, and extra funding for education.
A major plan is to spend HK$5 billion on building 10,000 transitional homes within the next three years for those on the waiting list for public housing.
The government will also offer a “one-off subsidy” for low-income households who are not living in public rental flats and not receiving financial aid from the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). The limit on the rent allowance for CSSA households has also been raised from about three to 27 per cent according to the number of members in the household.
Meanwhile, first-time homebuyers will be allowed to take out bigger loans. The lending limit has been raised from HK$4 million to HK$8 million for buyers who are eligible to borrow up to 90 per cent of the value of a flat. Those who can afford a mortgage worth up to 80 per cent of a property price will be able to borrow up to HK$10 million, instead of HK$6 million.
But Hong Kong protesters have accused Lam of using these new plans to silence the middle class. Some also argued that properties will only become more expensive, or that new homebuyers might end up with a flat worth less than the amount they borrowed to buy it.
New measures aimed at primary and secondary students include changing the one-off grant to an annual allowance of HK$2,500, as well as more support for non-Chinese speaking students and special needs students.
Lam also said that local secondary students studying certain postgraduate programmes that are key to Hong Kong’s development would be offered sponsorships.