Following is a summary of the speech by Secretary for Housing, Mr Dominic Wong in the motion debate on "The composition of the Hong Kong Housing Authority" moved by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday):
Contribution of the Housing Authority
* Since its establishment in 1973, the contribution of the Housing Authority has been significant -
-- providing over 600,000 public rental flats to people in genuine need;
-- building 270,000 subsidised home ownership flats to low and middle income families;
-- continuing to improve the living condition of residents.
Quality of public housing
* The Housing Authority has always attached great importance to the quality of public housing. It will conduct a thorough investigation into the recent events of substandard building quality to identify the parties responsible, and to improve its monitoring system with the experience gained.
* The Government will endeavour to assist the building industry to improve building quality, including the setting up of a task force under the Construction Advisory Board to study ways to enhance building quality. We also expect the building industry and the related professions to take measures to preserve the reputation of the industry.
Appointment of Housing Authority members
* The appointment system of Housing Authority members has been working well over the years. Members are appointed in their personal capacities. The present membership includes professionals in different fields, academics, social workers, subsidised housing flat owner, and members of the Executive Council, Legislative Council, Provisional Urban Council, Provisional Regional Council and Provisional District Boards. The membership provides a fair balance of professional expertise, and is able to reflect community views.
* The Housing Authority not only needs to meet the housing needs of different residents, but is also responsible to the general public to ensure efficient and effective use of limited resources. The Housing Authority has always been careful to strike a balance between the local interests of its residents and the needs of the community.
* Election of Housing Authority members, when compared with the appointment system, may not result in the best public housing policies for the community -
(a) Housing Authority may lack sufficient expertise in various professional disciplines;
(b) many necessary but politically controversial proposals would have little chance of being endorsed by the Housing Authority;
(c) the pool of independent and candid advice may be reduced as members are not appointed in their personal capacities. Policy decisions may not be made on the basis of impartial, independent and professional discussion. The efficiency of the Housing Authority in deliberation and implementation of housing policies may also be affected; and
(d) the Housing Authority deliberations may focus on narrow and district-based issues rather than territory-wide issues concerning the interests of the community as a whole.
Monitoring of Housing Authority by Government and the public in general
* The Housing Authority operates in an open manner and is directly accountable to the Government and the public through -
-- open meetings of the Housing Authority;
-- press releases and press briefings after meetings of Housing Authority and its committees;
-- annual reports and accounts to the LegCo;
-- attendance at meetings of the LegCo Housing Panel by Housing Bureau and Housing Department;
-- answering LegCo questions through Secretary for Housing;
-- meetings with District Board Chairmen and political and concern groups to exchange views on housing matters;
-- public consultation on major policy issues;
-- attendance at public forums by members of the Housing Authority and its committees;
-- various publications;
-- canvassing public opinion through surveys and complaints;
-- uploading onto Internet relevant information;
-- a proactive publicity and community relations approach;
-- establishment of estate management advisory committees and customer liaison groups; and
-- implementation of the Code on Access to Information.
* The operation of Housing Authority must comply with the provisions of the Housing Ordinance. It is also subject to scrutiny and monitoring by the Director of Audit, The Ombudsman, ICAC, Consumer Council, etc., not to mention various concern groups on housing.
End/Wednesday, November 3, 1999