The following is issued on behalf of the Housing Authority:
The Housing Authority has waived the 24-month restriction on domestic property ownership for public rental housing (PRH) applicants to help those ex-owners facing long-term financial hardship for access to PRH.
At a meeting of the Authority's Rental Housing Committee (RHC) today (November 1), Members decided that with immediate effect, ex-owners can register for PRH once they have disposed of their domestic properties, but they are still subject to other waiting list (WL) eligibility criteria including the Comprehensive Means Test and being non-recipients of subsidised home ownership schemes.
RHC Chairman Mr Ng Shui-lai said in view of the financial hardship faced by the public, there have been growing concerns over the justification for maintaining the 24-month "no domestic property rule".
He explained, "The prolonged economic downturn is making it difficult for some domestic property owners to continue with their monthly mortgage payments. Some are even forced to sell their properties and move to less satisfactory private housing."
"And rather than financial gains, the majority of transactions of private domestic property recorded recently have indicated losses to the vendors."
The relaxation will be extended to other PRH applicants including those affected by clearance operations. It will also cover PRH tenants applying for addition of family members, overcrowding relief, transfer for converted 1P, external transfer, allocation of an additional flat upon divorce, splitting, Rent Assistance Scheme and Interim Housing trawling. It is estimated that the relaxation will result in an additional annual demand for 1,000 PRH flats.
"This extra demand will not affect the pledge of reducing the average waiting time to three years by 2003 and will have no impact on the rehousing opportunities of those already on the WL," Mr Ng stressed.
The RHC noted that the Housing Department did not recommend to extend the relaxation to applicants for subsidised home ownership schemes such as the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) and Home Purchase Loan Scheme (HPLS), as those ex-property owners who can afford to buy another flat immediately after the disposal of their private flats would not be in the same level of hardship as those switching from private property ownership to PRH.
Meanwhile, the RHC also endorsed, with immediate effect, to extend the Families with Elderly Persons Priority Scheme (FEP) to households comprising at least one elderly person regardless of the generation and age of other qualifying family members in the applications.
Eligible families will be given advance offers of PRH flats up to a maximum of three years and be allowed to opt for flats in the Urban District. However, the requirement of having been registered on the WL for two years remains unchanged. It is estimated that about 4,300 such families will become eligible under the revised FEP.
At present, the scheme only benefits families composing of at least two generations with at least one elderly relative and one member of the younger generation aged 18 or above.
Today's new decision was taken in view of the rising concerns on families consisting of an elderly applicant and his/her spouse, siblings or other same-generation members aged below 60, brought about by the enhanced immigration quota for family reunion in recent years.
Also at today's meeting, the RHC has fixed the rents for about 11,600 PRH flats in ten new estates due for completion between December 2001 and June 2002 while maintaining the best rents of all districts at the current level up to June 2002.
Rents for Upper Ngau Tau Kok Phase 1, Fu Cheong Estate Phase 3, Yau Tong Phase 2 and Lei Yue Mun Phase 1 will be $63.4/sq. m., while those for Kwai Shing East Phase 7 and Shek Lei Phase 9 will be $61.2/ sq.m. Rents for Nga Ning Court in Cheung Chau will be fixed at $36.4/sq.m.
Rents for the New Cruciform Blocks in Tsz Man Phase 2 will be $69.7/sq.m and those in Kwai Fong Phase 7 and Fung Wo Lane in Shatin will be $67.3/sq.m. The rents are fixed at a level higher than the district best rents to reflect the higher standard of facilities and the estate value of the New Cruciform Blocks.
End/Thursday, November 1, 2001