Gay Couple Sues Hong Kong’s Public Housing

Together With Me: The Next Chapter / Image via TV Thunder

Gay people in Hong Kong are righting for more equal rights in the every growing city nation.

According to Reuters, one gay couple is fighting to bring public housing to gay couples like them across the city. Nick Infinger and his partner are the trailblazing couple, and their political fight is also a very personal one.

While on the hunt for an affordable home, the couple decided to apply for a public housing apartment. Public Housing in Hong Kong is a collection of government housing programs that provide affordable housing for low-income residents. But apparently, the program isn’t available to all citizens. Within a few months after applying, the gay couple received a rejection from the Hong Kong Housing Authority. The reason for their rejection? Their relationship didn’t fit the husband and wife definition of the “ordinary family” category.

“Housing rights are important to same-sex couples, too. I wish to claim that right for all same-sex couples in Hong Kong,” Infinger, 26, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over email.

The couple is now challenging the decision in court and say it’s unconstitutional under the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights, the latter of which guarantees equal rights to men and women.

This is the latest in a series of lawsuits and court battles concerning LGBTQ rights in Hong Kong. The country, which returned to being a Chinese territory in 1997 after being colonized by the British, decriminalized homosexuality in 1991. That said, the city-state is still lacking in protections and rights for LGBTQ citizens.

Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

But with Hong Kong currently in the midst of political unrest because of politicians trying to hand over more control to China, and causing major protests by fellow politicians and citizens because of it, LGBTQ people are using the opportunity to fight for their own rights.

The other situation that’s opening the door for Infinger’s lawsuit is the increasingly terrible public housing situation in Hong Kong. As National Interest writes:

“Around 44.7 percent of the city’s inhabitants—a whopping 3.3 million people—are living in public housing. The Hong Kong Housing Authority’s own statistics reveal that, as of the end of June, there were about 256,100 applications for a subsidized apartment with an average wait time of 5.4 years. Additionally, the availability of public housing is restricted: the cutoff threshold to apply for a one-person apartment, for example, is a monthly salary of HK$11,830 (around $1,500 a month, or $18,000 a year) and a maximum net assets of HK$257,000 (around $32,760). If the threshold were raised to include a broader range of the city’s poor, the number of people in need of housing would likely be much higher. This is not surprising, given that, according to government statistics, around 20 percent of the population is living below the poverty line (before accounting for cash transfers and other aid provided social safety net programs). While waiting for public housing, households must live in infamously tiny apartments, including those with squalid conditions.”

According to Infinger and his husband, who married in Canada last year and met all the requirements for a public rental apartment like being permanent residents, not owning other local properties, and being within the income limit, they want to put a spotlight on the growing housing issue and on the treatment of LGBTQ citizens.

“I wanted to call attention to the disadvantages and unfair treatment that LGBT people face, and put pressure on the government to review the public housing policy,” said Infinger.

The court case is due to be heard on September 26.

Sources: Reuters Foundation, National Interest

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