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LCQ13: Bedspace apartments and cubicle apartments

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


    Regarding the bedspace apartments (commonly known as "cage homes") and cubicle apartments, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective estimated numbers of people living in cage homes and cubicle apartments at present, broken down by age groups (each covering five years);

(b) apart from allocating public rental housing ("PRH") units to people living in cage homes and cubicle apartments, what other measures are in place to help them improve their living environment;

(c) of the number of people living in cage homes or cubicle apartments who were allocated PRH units in the past three years and, among them, the number of those who were allocated PRH units in the urban area;

(d) in respect of the Waiting List of non-elderly one-person applicants for PRH as at the end of 2007,

(i) of the respective numbers and percentages of applicants in various age groups (below 30, 31 to 40, 41 to 50 and over 50); and

(ii) of the respective numbers and percentages of applicants living in cage homes or cubicle apartments, and when all of them are expected to be allocated PRH units;

(e) of the rate of increase in the average per-square-metre rent of cage homes and cubicle apartments in the past three years; whether it has assessed the impact of removing rent control and security of tenure for private domestic accommodation on people living in cage homes and cubicle apartments; and

(f) given that the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has, since 1994, repeatedly urged the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to eliminate inadequate housing in the form of cage homes, whether it has drawn up a timetable for the elimination of cage homes and cubicle apartments?


Madam President,

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

(a) According to the General Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department in 2007, the numbers of domestic household members living in rooms (including permanent rooms and cubicles), bedspaces or cocklofts of private flats are as follows:

Age        Approximate
          Number of People
0- 14         6 100
15 - 24      3 400
25 - 39      13 500
40 - 49      10 000
50 - 59      8 600
60 or above  11 500
Total        53 200

    We do not have other types of statistical breakdown.

(b) Low-income families that cannot afford private rental housing, irrespective of the types of their existing accommodation, may apply to the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) for public rental housing (PRH).  The HA arranges for allocation of PRH flats to these families in an orderly manner through the Waiting List.  Individuals or families with genuine and pressing housing needs and unable to solve the problems themselves may apply to the Social Welfare Department (SWD)/Integrated Family Service Centres of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for allocation of PRH flats under the Compassionate Rehousing scheme.

    Moreover, any members of the public who cannot afford private rentals due to financial hardship, or have pressing housing needs due to various reasons, may approach the SWD/Integrated Family Service Centres of NGOs for assistance.  Social workers would consider the resources available to the persons concerned, and provide appropriate assistance in light of the special circumstances of individual cases.  The assistance includes short-term financial assistance to meet rental and removal expenses, referrals for applications for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, arrangement for admission to urban hostels for single persons, etc.

    As far as bedspace apartments are concerned, the Government's existing policy is to ensure the safety of buildings with bedspace apartments.  To monitor and ensure the fire and building safety and hygiene of bedspace apartments, the Government enacted the Bedspace Apartments Ordinance in 1994.

    As with other premises for self occupation or for lease, cubicles have to comply with the Fire Services Ordinance and the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance.  As regards electrical and gas safety, the Electricity Ordinance and the Gas Safety Ordinance have provisions governing the safety of communal installations in buildings or installations inside individual flats.  Any building works involving building structure or affecting public means of escape require prior approval from the Building Authority.  Government departments concerned will continue to take enforcement actions in accordance with the relevant legislation to ensure the safety of the premises concerned.

(c) In the past three years, the HA allocated more than 60 000 PRH units, including more than 18 000 units in the urban area, to applicants on the Waiting List.  We have not maintained the statistics on the types of accommodation of PRH applicants before they were allocated PRH units.

(d)(i) In September 2005, the HA introduced the "Quota and Points System for Non-Elderly One-person Applicants" (QPS) in order to rationalise and re-prioritise the allocation of PRH to non-elderly one-person applicants.  The aim is to accord priority for allocation of PRH flats to non-elderly one-person applicants with greater housing need.  As at the end of 2007, the number of non-elderly one-person applicants under the QPS, broken down by age group, is as follow:

Age Group         Number of non-elderly
                  one-person applicants
                  under the QPS*
                  (% of total no. of applicants)

Aged 30 or below      15 269 (40%)
Aged 31-40              9 865 (25%)
Aged 41-50              9 184 (24%)
Aged 50 or above        4 240 (11%)
Total                 38 558 (100%)

* Figures including applications being processed and applications frozen due to various reasons such as the applicants failing to meet the seven-year residence requirement.

(ii) The priority of non-elderly one-person applicants in PRH allocation is determined by the points they are alloted.  Points are allotted in accordance with the applicantˇ¦s age at the time of application, his accumulated waiting time and whether the applicant is already included in the tenancy of a PRH flat.  As such, we cannot estimate the time when they will be allocated PRH units.  However, eligible non-elderly one-person applicants who have pressing housing needs may seek earlier allocation of PRH flats under the Express Flat Allocation Scheme.

(e) The Rating and Valuation Department compiles rental statistics of the private residential rental market by floor area.  The latest statistics as at December 2007 show that rents for small units (i.e. units with saleable area less than 430 square feet/40 square metres) at the end of 2005, 2006 and 2007 have increased by about 11%, 10% and 13% respectively over the same period of the previous year.

    The Legislative Council passed an amendment bill in June 2004 repealing various restrictions over the private residential rental market, with a view to restoring the free operation and healthy development of the market, in line with the policy objective of minimising intervention in the private property market.  Changes in private rentals are influenced by a number of factors, including the overall economic situation, property market sentiment and development of the districts concerned, etc.

    As mentioned above, low-income families who cannot afford private rental accommodation may apply to the HA for public housing.  Any members of the public who cannot afford private rentals due to financial hardship, or have pressing housing needs due to various reasons, may approach the SWD/Integrated Family Service Centres of NGOs for assistance.

(f) People choose to live in bedspace apartments and cubicles because these apartments, apart from commanding a low rental level, are mostly conveniently located in the urban areas.  People living in these apartments can then travel to their workplaces on foot or by relatively low cost public transport.  Hence, there is still a demand for this type of private accommodation in the market.  The Government has no plan at present to displace such accommodation.

Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Issued at HKT 15:13


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