Following is a question by the Hon CHEUNG Hok-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):
I have received complaints from the residents of Po Tin Estate in Tuen Mun and the local district council members, claiming that as Po Tin Estate was originally intended for temporary accommodation, its facilities have all along been unsatisfactory. For example, the toilets in the housing units are so small that adults can only sidle their way in and it is difficult for them to turn around in the toilets. However, as the Hong Kong Housing Authority ("HKHA") is gradually changing Po Tin Estate into a public rental housing ("PRH") estate, the existing residents will have to live in the estate on a long-term basis. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the current overall letting rate of Po Tin Estate, as well as the respective numbers and occupancy rates of the PRH units and interim housing units in that estate;
(b) whether HKHA and the Housing Department ("HD") will allocate funds to improve the facilities of Po Tin Estate including upgrading existing toilets to the standard specifications, as well as increasing childrenˇ¦s facilities and recreational facilities in that estate; and
(c) if HKHA and HD will not allocate funds to improve the facilities of Po Tin Estate, whether they will consider offering rent concessions to the residents of that estate as compensation; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) As a result of the measures implemented over the past few years, including keeping the average waiting time for public rental housing at about three years and relaxation of the rehousing criteria for families affected by squatter clearance, the demand for interim housing has been decreasing. For better utilisation of public housing resources, in June 2004 the Housing Authority decided to turn Po Tin Interim Housing, which was then only half-occupied, into a public rental housing estate (Po Tin Estate) after upgrading its security system. As at the end of January 2006, of the 8 736 flats in Po Tin Estate, there are 3 907 public housing tenants and 2 394 interim housing licensees. The overall occupancy rate is 72%. The vacant flats are being allocated as public rental housing.
(b) Po Tin Estate is fully-fledged with standard fittings and facilities commonly found in public housing estates, such as pitches, children's playground, youth centre, fitness area, kindergarten, commercial centre and wet market. The children and recreational provisions now in place are already consistent with planning standard. Hence, the Housing Authority has no plan to increase this kind of facilities.
Public housing tenants of Po Tin Estate are entitled to a minimum of 7 m² internal floor area (IFA) per person, which is the established space allocation standard for public rental housing. Constrained by its original design, the toilets of Po Tin Estate are comparatively small. Any enlargement and alteration works will necessitate substantial changes to building structure, which are neither cost effective nor practicable.
(c) We accept that some tenants may find the small size of the toilet inconvenient. Hence, rejection of an allocation offer of a Po Tin Estate flat will not be considered as unreasonable refusal. Applicants who have rejected an offer of a Po Tin Estate flat will still be given up to three other allocation offers in line with usual practice.
Having regard to flat design, the rents of Po Tin Estate flats are maintained at the levels of the licence fees for interim housing. The monthly rents range from $330 (for a one-person flat of 8.19 m² IFA) to $1,130 (for a two- to three-person flat of 28.28 m² IFA), which are equivalent to 95% of the rents for new public rental flats in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long. As a further incentive, new tenants of Po Tin Estate are given a one-month rent-free period in addition to the usual fourteen-day rent-free fitting-out period.
Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Issued at HKT 12:50