LCQ4: Conversion of Housing for Senior Citizens units into normal PRH flats

    Following is a question by the Hon James Tien and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, JP in the Legislative Council today (February 27):


    In reply to a question raised by a Member at the Council meeting on June 6, 2007, the former Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands said that the Hong Kong Housing Authority was converting Housing for Senior Citizens ("HSC") units with consistently high vacancy rate (usually the old-style units with shared kitchen and toilet facilities) into normal public rental housing ("PRH") flats or other uses by phases.  The Secretary further said that apart from better utilising the resources, the conversion scheme would fundamentally resolve the daily living problems that tenants might encounter in sharing the use of facilities.  It has also been reported recently that in order to increase the supply of PRH flats to continue to meet the target of maintaining the average waiting time for PRH at three years, the Housing Department has decided to convert some HSC units into normal PRH flats, and has issued Notices-to-Quit to the elderly tenants living in such flats.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  apart from the above reasons mentioned by the Secretary, whether there are other reasons for implementing the above conversion scheme; if so, of the details; and the details of the scheme (including the PRH estates involved since last year, and whether the scheme will be extended to other PRH estates, etc.);

(b)  focusing on the reasons referred to in (a) for implementing the above conversion scheme, whether it has explored if there are alternatives to that conversion scheme; if there are alternatives, of the details and the reasons for not adopting them; and

(c)  whether it has examined the difficulties that the elderly tenants of the above flats will encounter when they move to other flats; if so, of the details and the measures to deal with such difficulties?


Madam President,

    My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a)  The Housing for Senior Citizens (HSC) is hostel-type public housing introduced in the late eighties with 24-hour warden service.  Tenants have to share kitchen and/or toilet facilities.  As most public rental housing (PRH) applicants prefer small self-contained PRH units, many of them refuse to move into HSC units.  This has resulted in a relatively high vacancy rate for HSC.  In May 2006, the average refusal rate for HSC stood as high as 84%, showing a gradual decrease in applicants' demand for hostel-type public housing.

    To better utilise public housing resources, the Housing Authority (HA) introduced a trial scheme in 2002 to convert HSCs with relatively high vacancy rates into normal PRH flats.  Under this scheme, some HSC units in Chung On Estate and Wah Lai Estate have been converted into normal PRH flats.  Many tenants welcome the scheme as it has helped improve their living environment.  In view of the satisfactory results of the trial scheme, the HA endorsed the scheme as a long-term measure in July 2006, aiming to convert 500 HSC units each year.  That said, whether the existing tenants are to move out is entirely their voluntary decisions.  If a tenant does not wish to move out, he may continue to stay in his unit which will not be converted.  Prior to the conversion, the Housing Department (HD) will consult the tenants concerned on their views on moving out and address their needs in relation to moving as far as possible.

    Phase 1 of the conversion programme covers the HSCs in Tak Tin Estate, Tin Chak Estate, Tin King Estate and Ko Yee Estate, involving 430 units, with vacancy rates between 46% and 74%.  The HD is conducting a questionnaire survey to gauge the intention of the tenants to move out.  Once the findings are consolidated, the HD will arrange flat transfer for those who choose to move out.  The HD has not issued any Notice-to-Quit to any tenants. 

    If the programme is implemented smoothly, the HA will continue to implement the programme in another 14 HSCs with relatively high vacancy rates.

(b)  Other than converting HSC units into normal PRH flats, the HA would consider converting HSCs with relatively high vacancy rates to other uses such as residential care homes, social service centres and elderly community centres, having regard to the local demand for such services.  For example, the HSC in Fu Tai Estate in Tuen Mun has been converted into a Residential Care Home for the Elderly cum Day Care Unit.

    Apart from conversion, in order to reduce the vacancy rates of HSCs and to better utilise public housing resources, the HA has relaxed the age restriction for HSC tenants since November 2001, allowing non-elderly singletons to apply.  In addition, HSC units have been included in the Express Flat Allocation Scheme since December 2001 for applicants to select, thus providing public housing to needy families in a shorter time.

(c)  The HA understands that some elderly tenants would like to live in neighborhoods with which they are familiar.  It has therefore decided that whether the sitting HSC tenants are to move out should entirely be their voluntary decisions.  The implementation of the conversion programme is tenant-oriented.  Those who choose to move out will be granted removal allowance.  Subject to availability of resources, the HD will arrange flat transfer according to the housing preferences of the tenants, or arrange elderly tenants who know each other well to move into units in the same or neighbouring housing estates.  Moreover, to reduce the difficulties that tenants may encounter in the course of moving and to ease their worries about the moving arrangements, the HD has engaged an elderly service organisation with effect from November 2007 to assist the affected tenants with the moving arrangements and make referrals to the Social Welfare Department where necessary, in order to ensure that the elderly tenants are properly rehoused and will adapt to the new living environment as soon as possible.

Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Issued at HKT 14:11