For instance, 72-year old Sidney Lam has been staying in an elderly housing project called Cheerful Court at Jordan Valley, near Hong Kong's Kowloon Bay for nearly two years.
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Lam had to pay an initial entry fee of HK$600,000, (US$77,374) plus maintenance of HK$2,000 (US$ 258) each month, to stay in a one-bedroom flat with his wife. The fee includes services like a monthly medical checkup, which Lam deems reasonable.
Despite the lower costs, the scheme wasn't well-received initially. "Traditionally, the Chinese prefer to own their own flat, rather than opting for a life-lease, which has no investment value. But as time goes by, it seems to become quite popular, as people like living with those of the same age and social standing," says Wong.
Today, there are more than 300 people on the waiting list. Most will likely wait three years or more for an available spot.
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The Hong Kong Housing Society is also experimenting with a new type of elderly housing project, due to be completed sometime next year. These are not subsidized, and will not require tenants to go through means testing. They are aimed primarily at those who already owned their flats, but are looking to liquidate their fixed assets.
The pricing has not been announced just yet. "We would probably charge the tenants an entry contribution, which would be some 50 percent to 60 percent of the market price, in return for a life-lease. I am not sure if this would be successful, but I believe there is a market for it," says Wong. "We're quite prepared to invest more in this area, to help our tenants live safely and happily in our estates."
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