Opening remarks by STH at joint press conference (with video)

     Following is the transcript of opening remarks by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, at a joint press conference held at Central Government Offices, Tamar, today (July 16):

     I would like to elaborate on some of the initiatives unveiled by the Chief Executive earlier in his opening remarks in the LegCo Q&A session. There are a couple of items relating to housing. First of all, the extension of the arrangement for the sale of what we called "second-hand" HOS flats, i.e. Home Ownership Scheme flats, without premium payment from Green-form applicants to White-form applicants. Green-form applicants are sitting tenants of public rental housing. White-form applicants are private housing people who fulfil the income limit as well as the asset limit for HOS flats. So, in the past up to now, we already have a secondary market for HOS flats whereby the owners can sell their units to Green-form applicants without the premium payment. Of course, if the buyers eventually want to sell their units in the open market, they have to make up for the premium. Now, the proposal is to extend this arrangement to White-form applicants up to 5,000 per year. The direction is now set. The Housing Authority and its relevant committees will study details of the implementation arrangement. We hope that we would invite applications in January next year. Basically, the target group will be those households of income up to $30,000 per month and they must be first-time home buyers because, basically, the whole purpose is to enable them to acquire their first home.

     The other initiative relates to how we deal with the non-elderly single-person applicants in the public rental housing waiting list. At the moment, for these non-elderly singletons, if I may use this word, they are subject to a Quota and Points System (QPS). Every year, there is a maximum of 2,000 units to be provided to them in terms of allocation. Now, we have initially examined the relative needs of those non-elderly singletons under QPS. We reckon that for those aged above 35, they probably would have a greater need, a more pressing need, than the younger singletons. So, we are going to devise arrangements whereby these singletons aged above 35 will be able to have a shorter waiting time. Now, how we go about it, of course, has to be looked into in greater detail and the Housing Department has already started the process of formulating various scenarios whereby the waiting time could be reduced for these people. Because we have to accommodate more people within public rental housing, therefore we have to really look into the issue of increasing public housing supply and ultimately the increase of land supply. The Government will continue to adopt a multi-prong approach. Apart from developing new land, we try to release existing land resource. We try to optimise the use of existing land resource. And this will include the release of industrial land, the adjustment of use for other land, including GIC, i.e. Government/Institution/Community, land. Of course, we are aware of the need to balance the supply of land, the release of land, with the need to ensure that the local residents would not be adversely affected in terms of the overall quality of life in the neighbourhood.

     And the Chief Executive has also mentioned the long-term housing strategy. I would like to inform the media here that the Government will very soon relaunch the long-term housing strategy work. We will set up a committee for this purpose and through the formulation process we try to assess the needs of different sectors, different income groups in terms of the housing needs, particularly for public rental housing and HOS. We hope that, based on the more comprehensive assessment, the Government will be able to devise a plan that will really meet the needs of the community.

     Finally, the point about improvement of barrier-free access facilities. This involves the addition of lifts to buildings, particularly in public rental housing, and also the use of lifts to connect buildings along a passageway. And for some hillside estates, we need to deal with the installation of hillside escalator systems. We have already in place various programmes for the addition of lifts, escalators and hillside escalator systems. For the hillside escalator systems, we have already received suggestions from various districts to install up to, I think, about 20 such systems. Now we have already completed assessment of these 20 items, and 10 items are put at the top of the agenda. But we are also trying to expedite the examination of feasibility of the other items. With additional resources, we should be able to do more. But, of course, the installation feasibility also depends on the technical feasibility, the location of where such systems should be put in place, and also, of course, there is a procedure whereby we have to gazette the proposal and we have to entertain any views or comments from the community.

Ends/Monday, July 16, 2012
Issued at HKT 20:56