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LCQ19: Housing needs and home ownership aspirations of young people

     Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (February 24):


     The Chief Executive (CE) announced in July 2012 that the Government planned to support non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with the full capital costs of building youth hostels. The Government also indicated that it would actively assist interested NGOs in rolling out youth hostel projects (YHPs) as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it has already been three and a half years since CE made the aforesaid announcement, but so far no construction works for YHP have commenced, and some YHPs have been postponed or even shelved due to various reasons. Regarding the housing needs and home ownership aspirations of young people, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of hostel units involved, the latest progress and the anticipated completion date of each YHP implemented by the Government in collaboration with NGOs and private land owners; the number of projects postponed and the details concerned; the number of projects shelved and the reasons concerned; the respective numbers of units involved in the projects which have been postponed, scaled down and shelved; whether the total number of units that can be provided by the various projects at present can meet the target of providing 3 000 units in the first round; if the target cannot be met, how the authorities will increase the supply of youth hostels;

(2) whether it has formulated standardised arrangements (e.g. the number of people living in each unit, the eligibility criteria and the maximum tenancy period) for youth hostels; if it has, of the details; given that the authorities indicated in February 2013 that the aggregate tenancy for youth hostel units should not exceed five years, how the authorities will respond to young people's aspirations to continue to rent and stay in youth hostel units after living there for five years;

(3) as it has been reported that some operating organisations of youth hostels intend to stipulate that if tenants give birth to children during their stay at the youth hostels, their tenancies will not be renewed and they will be required to move out from the hostels after a transitional period, whether the authorities have provided guidelines to the operating organisations on the handling of such kind of situations; if they have, of the details, including whether they have established a mechanism for exercising discretion to allow the aforesaid tenants with urgent housing needs to apply for extending their tenancies; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) apart from providing youth hostels, whether it has formulated new policies to help address the housing needs and home ownership aspirations of young people by enhancing the existing housing ladder; if it has not, of the reasons for that?



     To optimise the development potential of sites held by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and to fulfill the aspiration of some working youths in having their own living space, the Chief Executive announced the Youth Hostel Scheme (YHS) in the 2011-12 Policy Address. Under the YHS, NGOs are fully funded by the Government to construct youth hostels on sites in their hands. Subvented NGOs will then rent hostel units to working youths aged 18 to 30 at a rate not exceeding 60 per cent of market rental. Upon completion, these youth hostels will be operated on a self-financing basis.

     The Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) has been actively taking forward the YHS and has been in close liaison with relevant NGOs and providing them with necessary assistance. Regarding the various parts of the question raised by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung, upon consultation with the Transport and Housing Bureau, our consolidated reply is as follows:

(1) We are actively pursuing five projects under the YHS, which are being taken up by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs), the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG), the Hong Kong Association of Youth Development (HKAYD), the Hong Kong Girl Guides Association (HKGGA) and Po Leung Kuk (PLK). The expected completion date and estimated number of hostel places of each project are tabulated at Annex.

     Among these projects, the HKFYG project in Tai Po, the PLK project in Yuen Long and the TWGHs project in Sheung Wan have completed their respective technical feasibility studies. Various statutory procedures, such as lease modification and submission of town planning application, are underway. For the PLK project, we have consulted the Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs on the funding application for the pre-construction works, and will soon submit the application to the Public Works Subcommittee for consideration. For the HKAYD project in Mong Kok and the HKGGA project in Jordan, the technical feasibility studies are in the final stage. We will consult the relevant district council on the basic details of the projects.  

     Given the differences in scale, technical requirements and necessary planning and land procedures among various YHS projects, the HAB has been actively assisting NGOs in discussing with relevant departments to solve the technical problems encountered. All YHS projects are being gradually implemented, and none of them has to be shelved.

     The five projects currently in progress are expected to provide a total of about 2 700 hostel places. We also continue to explore with other interested NGOs the possibility of implementing more potential YHS projects. We will announce the details when the projects are mature. We are confident that the target of providing 3 000 hostel places can be reached.

(2) Under the YHS, all hostel units are either single rooms or double rooms. On eligibility criteria, the income level of a one-person household applicant should not exceed the 75th percentile of the monthly earnings of employed persons aged 18 to 30 ($17,000 in 2014), and that of a two-person household applicant should not exceed twice the level of a one-person household. The total net asset limit of a one-person household and a two-person household should not exceed $300,000 and $600,000 respectively. An applicant should neither, solely or jointly, own any residential property in Hong Kong, nor hold any residential property in Hong Kong through a company.

     Since youth hostels are to be operated on a self-financing basis, we will give the operating NGOs a certain degree of freedom to select tenants as long as they meet the above criteria. Generally speaking, we are of the view that operators should take into account the personal and family background of applicants, such as the district of residence, current living condition, family status and affordability.

     Housing is a precious resource to our society. To ensure fairness and sufficient circulation of hostel units to benefit more young people, we stipulate that the first tenancy should be at least two years, which can be renewed for an aggregate of no more than five years. We hope that during the five-year tenancy, young people can benefit from the affordable rental of youth hostels and can accumulate certain savings for future development.

(3) Youth development is diversified. To benefit more young people under the youth hostel policy, we will allow NGOs to have certain discretion to assist applicants with special needs. For applicants not meeting some eligibility criteria, if NGOs consider that residence in youth hostels can benefit their personal development, NGOs may flexibly allocate 5 per cent of their hostel places to accommodate these partially eligible cases.  uch discretion is also applicable to cases of pregnancy during residence. We will maintain close liaison with NGOs to ensure that their youth hostels are operated in accordance to the policy objectives of youth development.

(4) It was generally agreed during public consultation of the Long Term Housing Strategy (LTHS) that establishing an effective housing ladder will address the long term housing need of young people. The Government announced the LTHS in December 2014 and adopted the "supply-led" strategy to rebuild the housing ladder. Apart from increasing the supply of public rental housing (PRH), the Government will provide more subsidised sale flats (SSFs), expand the forms of subsidised home ownership and facilitate the market circulation of existing SSFs, as well as stabilise the residential property market through steady land supply and appropriate demand-side management measures, in order to gradually avert the housing supply-demand imbalance.

     Based on the latest projection, the total housing supply target for the ten-year period from 2016-17 to 2025-26 is 460 000 units, with the split between public and private housing supply remaining at 60:40. Accordingly, the public housing supply target is 280 000 units, including 200 000 PRH units and 80 000 SSFs; while the private housing supply target is 180 000 units. The housing demand projection has taking into account the housing needs of different sectors of the society, including the housing needs of young people who form new households when they get married or seek independent living.

     The Government will continue to spare no effort in identifying suitable land. It will also collaborate with the Hong Kong Housing Authority and other relevant organisations with a view to achieving the public housing supply target in order to address the long term housing demand of, amongst others, young people. As for private housing, as at end December 2015, the projected supply in the first-hand private residential property market for the coming three to four years is approximately 87 000 units. Steady land supply and appropriate demand-side management measures will help stabilise property price and rental level, which in turn benefit people who intend to buy or rent private residential flats from all walks of life, including young people.

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:13


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