Macau Business. By Aries Un.

Macau authorities have announced adjustments to the eligibility criteria for public housing for sale, signaling a shift in housing policies in the post-Covid era.

In a Gazette announcement on Monday, the authorities revealed a 7 percent reduction in the upper limit of the income requirement. Moreover, there has been a significant 10.5 percent decrease in the ceiling of the net worth requirement.

The most recent adjustments to the eligibility criteria were implemented in 2021, with a downward adjustment of about 1.4 per cent.

Under the new rules, the monthly income upper limit for a family of one has been lowered from MOP38,350 (US$4,766) in 2021 to MOP35,650.

Similarly, for households of two or more, the limit has dropped from MOP76,690 in 2021 to MOP71,310.

In terms of net worth, households with one person now face a reduced upper limit from MOP 1,254,900 to MOP 1,122,200, while households with two or more see their upper limit decrease from MOP 2,509,800 to MOP 2,244,400.

These adjustments are expected to precede a government call for applications for public housing, a process that typically generates intense competition.

In 2019, the availability of 3,011 units attracted a staggering 37,487 applications. According to the Housing Bureau, approximately 5,000 flats are anticipated to enter the market by the end of the year, located on the reclaimed land off the eastern Macau peninsula.

These adjustments reflect the ongoing efforts to adapt the city’s public housing system – under which a new type of housing dedicated to the ‘sandwich class’ was created and approved by legislators in August – to the changing needs and circumstances of local residents.

Economist Henry Lei from the University of Macau linked them to the post-pandemic changes in households’ income and wealth.

Lei told Macau News Agency that although the median income had already returned to MOP20,000, the same level as in 2019, some households may still be struggling with lower income compared to the pre-pandemic era.

He also suggests that the income distribution pattern may have shifted.

“The government adjusted the requirements to ensure that the heavily subsidised economic housing will only be allocated to those who need it the most,” said the scholar. “Those with certain purchasing power could consider the sandwich class housing.”

After three years of work, the so-called ‘sandwich-class’ housing bill will come into force in April next year.