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LCQ1: Express Flat Allocation Scheme

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-kin and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, in the Legislative Council today (April 18):


     It has been reported earlier that quite a number of young or middle-aged non-elderly one-person applicants of public rental housing (PRH) seek expeditious allocation of PRH through the Express Flat Allocation Scheme (EFAS) and then apply for purchasing Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats or units under other subsidised housing schemes as green form applicants after three years.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of non-elderly one-person applicants of PRH who joined EFAS in each of the past five years, and among such applicants, the number, age groups, academic qualifications, and average waiting time of those who were allocated PRH units; the number of non-elderly one-person applicants allocated PRH units under EFAS in the past five years who applied to switch to ordinary households with other family members, or applied to purchase HOS flats as green form applicants, within five years after moving into the PRH units concerned;

(b) in each of the past five years, of the numbers of inspections and home visits conducted by the Housing Department (HD) in relation to misuse of PRH, the number of units involved, and the respective numbers of one-person units and units for the elderly involved; among such inspections and home visits, of the number of surprise visits in each year; the number of cases eventually confirmed by HD as cases of PRH units being misused or left vacant; and

(c) given that more subsidised housing schemes will be available for application by the public in future, and under some of such schemes, green form applicants will have a greater chance of success in a ballot or a higher priority in the order of unit selection, whether the authorities have assessed if the aforesaid situation will become a short-cut for certain people to apply for such subsidised housing schemes, increase the waiting time for needy families, waste PRH resources and affect the fairness of these subsidised housing schemes; if they have, of the details; whether the authorities will conduct thorough investigation and step up regulation to prevent abuse of PRH resources and at the same time review the eligibility of non-elderly one-person tenants for applying for subsidised housing as green form applicants, so as to prevent the problem from worsening?



     Before answering the Hon Wong's question, I would like to emphasise that, for the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA), the main purpose for launching the Express Flat Allocation Scheme (EFAS) is to expedite the letting of less popular vacant public rental housing (PRH) units in order to better utilise the public housing resources.  At the same time, the EFAS provides eligible PRH Waiting List applicants a channel through which they may apply for allocation of a PRH unit earlier to suit their circumstances.

     My reply to the Hon Wong's three-part question is as follows:

(a) In each of the past five years (ie 2006-07 to 2010-11), there were respectively about 7 300, 8 300, 8 500, 12 000 and 16 000 non-elderly one-person applicants under the Quota and Points System (QPS) who participated in the EFAS.  Under the EFAS in these respective years, there were about 1 200, 680, 1 000, 500 and 700 non-elderly one-person applicants who were allocated a PRH unit.  Please refer to Annex for the detailed figures.  Over 70% of these successful non-elderly one-person applicants were over 30 years old.

     Flat allocation for non-elderly one-person applicants under QPS is determined by the points they have, thus the target of the Average Waiting Time is not applicable to them.  The Housing Department (HD) does not have the breakdown on the academic qualifications of these applicants who are allocated a PRH unit under the EFAS.

     In the past five years, there were 66 and 1 non-elderly one-person applicants who had been allocated a PRH unit under the EFAS in 2006-07 and 2007-08 respectively, and purchased surplus Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats on Green-Form (GF) status afterwards.  In the subsequent three years (ie 2008-09 to 2010-11), there was no non-elderly one-person applicant who had been allocated a PRH unit under the EFAS, and purchased surplus HOS flats on GF status afterwards.

     The HD does not have the statistics of non-elderly one-person applicants who were allocated a PRH unit under the EFAS and later applied to switch to general family in the past five years.

(b) To ensure the rational allocation and utilisation of the limited public housing resources, the HD has formulated effective measures to detect PRH abuse cases, including vacant of flats, flats occupied by unauthorised persons, performing illegal activities in PRH flats (ie gambling and possession of drugs) or non-domestic use (ie commercial activities).  HD's frontline estate management staff members will, through their day-to-day tenancy management works and at least one home visit in every two years to about 700 000 PRH tenants, verify the tenants' occupancy position, and thus detect whether there is any PRH flat being abused.  Should there be any doubt about the tenants' occupancy position during the home visits, such cases will be referred to the Central Team of the HD for further investigation.  In addition, the Central Team will also carry out in-depth investigation on all complaints and randomly-selected cases.  There are about 120 000 sitting tenants in one-person flats and Housing for Senior Citizens flats at present.  These home visits are mostly conducted without prior notification.  The latest round of biennial home visits has been commenced in November 2010 and will be completed in October 2012.  As at end March 2012, the HD has visited about 520 000 PRH households.

     Also, over the past five years, the HD has investigated an average of about 8 000 cases of suspected tenancy abuse each year, and there were on average about 400 confirmed tenancy abuse cases each year that resulted in the recovery of PRH flats.

(c) To prevent PRH tenants who were allocated their units through the EFAS to take it as a short cut to purchase surplus HOS flats, the Subsidised Housing Committee of the HA endorsed a special measure in 2007 specifying that from 2007-08 onwards, if GF applicants who were allocated PRH units through the EFAS applied for the purchase of surplus HOS flats within three years from taking up their PRH units, they would be treated as White-Form (WF) applicants in the flat selection order and any surplus HOS flats taken up by this category of GF applicants would be counted against the WF quota.

     Since the implementation of the above special measure by the HA in 2007, only one non-elderly one-person household who was allocated a PRH unit through the EFAS in 2007-08 purchased a surplus HOS flat so far.  We consider that this special measure has achieved its intended effect.

     As I mentioned earlier, with a view to ensuring the rational allocation and use of the limited public housing resources, the HD has put in place a Biennial Inspection System (BIS).  Under the BIS, the HD estate management staff members will conduct at least one visit to all PRH households every two years, taking the opportunity during the visits to detect any abuse of PRH.  To tie in with the visits, the HD has launched a series of publicity and educational programmes to reinforce the importance of the rational use of the limited public housing resources.  We consider the existing measures to be effective.  The HD, however, will review from time to time and adjust the measures available to tackle abuses of public housing resources as necessary to ensure that they can continue to achieve the intended effects.

     PRH is an important benefit provided to the least well off in our community.  It is important that the limited resources available are allocated to those most in need.  The HA and HD constantly monitor the situation to ensure the appropriate allocation and use of these scarce resources.

Ends/Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:40


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