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LCQ4: Allocation of public rental housing flats

     Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li Wah-ming and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, in the Legislative Council today (26 January):


     Members of the public who are eligible to apply for public rental housing (PRH) and have submitted their applications must first obtain an application number, then wait for allocation of PRH flats according to their order of registration on the PRH Waiting List, and PRH flats will be allocated to them when suitable flats are available.  At present, the average space allocated is normally not less than seven square metres per person.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) why at present, the authorities generally need three months to allocate an application number to a PRH applicant and whether that duration can be shortened; among the ordinary family applications which had been allocated PRH flats in the past three years, of the average waiting time from the date of registration to the acceptance of flat offer (i.e. being successfully allocated a flat), the median waiting time, and the respective numbers and percentages of applicants who accepted the flats allocated to them on the first, second and third offers;

(b) among the ordinary family applications currently on the Waiting List, of the average waiting time from the date of registration till the end of December 2010, the median waiting time, and the respective numbers of applications which have been given flat offers once or twice, and whether the time required for making the second or the third offers can be shortened; and

(c) among the applications from the three-person, four-person and five-person families which had been allocated PRH flats in the past three years, of the respective average space allocated to each person, and whether the authorities will consider relaxing the space allocation standard, which had been established many years ago, of an average of seven square metres per person?



     The Government and the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA)'s objective is to provide public rental housing (PRH) to low-income families who cannot afford private rental accommodation, and the target is to maintain the average waiting time (AWT) for PRH at around three years.  To this end, the HA maintains a Waiting List (WL) of PRH applicants.  My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a) To safeguard the rational allocation of public housing resources, all applicants have to undergo eligibility vetting before they are registered on the WL.  The Housing Department (HD) will vet the applicants' eligibility according to the order of receipt of the application forms.  Those fulfilling the eligibility criteria will be allocated an application number and issued an acknowledgement letter (blue card) bearing the application number.  Our target is to inform the applicant in writing whether he/she has been successfully registered on the WL within three months upon acknowledgement of the receipt of his/her application form.  The time required for vetting depends on the number of applications received and the number of documents requiring vetting.  If there is a significant increase in the number of applications received in a certain period of time, HD would redeploy extra manpower to vet and process the applications.  At present, in general we are able to meet the target of completing vetting in three months.

     The Government and the HA's target is to maintain the AWT of general WL applicants at around three years.  Under the established calculation methodology, the AWT of general WL applicants refers to the average time taken between registration on the WL and the first flat offer for those rehoused to PRH in the past 12 months, excluding any frozen period during application, for example, when the applicant has not yet fulfilled the residence requirement, the applicant is imprisoned, or the applicant has requested to put his/her application on hold pending arrival of family member(s) for family reunion, etc.  While eligible applicants are given three flat offers, the applicants are provided with a rehousing opportunity at the first offer.  It is a matter of personal decision if the applicants decline the first flat offer to wait for subsequent offers.  Thus, the waiting time is counted up to the first flat offer.

     In respect of AWT for general WL applicants, which refers to the average period between registration and first flat offer, it was 1.8 years in 2008/09, and two years for 2009/10 and as at the end of October 2010.

     The aforementioned calculation methodology counting the time between registration and first flat offer forms the basis for formulating and maintaining the target of keeping the AWT at around three years.  We have not calculated the average or median of the actual time for rehousing as this would include acceptance upon the second or third flat offer.

     However, we could provide the following supplementary information for reference.  For those general WL applicants, excluding one-person applicants, who rejected the first offer, in 2008/09, the average time taken between the first and second offer, or between the second and third offers for those with third offers was about five or six months plus; in 2009/10, it was about four to five months plus; and from April to end of October 2010, it was about five to six months.

     As regards statistics of when the applicants accept the flat offers, in 2008/09, 20%, 39% and 41% of the general WL applicants (excluding applicants under the Quota and Points System (QPS)) accepted the first, second and third offers respectively.  In 2009/10, the respective numbers were 21%, 41% and 38%.  From April to end of October 2010, the respective numbers were 19%, 46% and 35%.  I would like to stress that the above figures only show the situation in a specified period of time.  As the supply and demand of PRH and the distribution of WL District choices of applicants change from time to time, such figures also vary from time to time.

(b) Regarding part (b) of the question, as the statistics for the recent two months are still being compiled, we would now provide statistics as at end of October 2010.

     The average waiting period for general WL applicants currently on the WL, based on the time between registration until flat offer or end of October 2010, was 1.5 years and the median waiting period was 1.3 years.  Waiting period excludes any frozen period, for example when the applicants do not fulfill the residence requirements, period of imprisonment, or the applications are put on hold at the request of the applicants pending arrival of family member(s) for family reunion, etc.

     Under the three housing offers available, it is a matter of personal decision for the applicants to refuse the first flat offer to wait for subsequent offers.  As at end of October 2010, there were a total of 81,900 general WL applications, excluding applications under the QPS.  Among them,about 5,700 and 7,900 cases had already received first or second flat offer(s).

     As for the period between second and third flat offers, I wish to point out that allocation offers are made subject to the supply of PRH flats which includes new production and recovered flats.  Supply of new and recovered PRH flats may vary across Districts from time to time and applicants' demand for various flat types in different Districts changes from time to time as well.  Whenever existing PRH flats are recovered or new flats are completed, we would allocate the flats to households of suitable sizes in a timely manner and without any delay, according to the order of the applications.  We hope to help applicants solve their housing problem as soon as possible and ensure that public housing resources are utilised effectively.  As allocation offers are made subject to PRH demand and supply, we are unable to pledge to shorten the period required for the next offer.  Moreover, there are cases where the applicants have special requests regarding the locality of allocation on medical or family grounds with support from the relevant authorities.  The flats available for allocation would be limited and hence the time required for such offers would be longer.

(c) The HA's objective is to provide PRH to low income households to meet their housing needs as soon as possible.  For effective use of the scarce PRH resources, flats of different designs and sizes are allocated according to the standards endorsed by the HA.  If the standards are relaxed, applicants' choice would be reduced and the waiting time would be lengthened.  The HA would also need to have larger units to rehouse WL applicants.  This would exert pressure on PRH supply under limited public housing and land resources.  Therefore, we do not have any plans to relax the allocation standards.

     Among general WL applicants rehoused in 2008/09, 2009/10 and from April to end of October 2010, the average space allocated per person for three-person households remained around 10 square metres.  For four-person households, it remained around 9.5 square metres.  For five-person households, it remained around 8 square metres.

Ends/Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:47


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