Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ17: Declarations and surveys relating to household income of public rental housing tenants

     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     Under a prevailing policy of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA), tenants who have been living in public rental housing (PRH) flats for 10 years or more are required to declare household income biennially (income declaration). Furthermore, for the purpose of conducting a rent review for PRH every two years, HA randomly selects 2 000 PRH tenants each month for an income survey (income survey). Over the past few years, I have been receiving complaints from PRH tenants that the nuisance caused to the same tenant who is required to deal with income declaration and income survey one after another within a short period of time is unbearable. Such tenants are required to declare the relevant information (including the income of each of the working family member) in detail, and the cumbersome declaration and time-consuming survey have often caused conflicts among the family members. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that there are a number of major public housing estates (e.g. Tsz Ching Estate and Sau Mau Ping Estate with populations of over 22 000 and over 35 000 respectively) in Kowloon East, of the number of staff members deployed by the Housing Department (including the Estate Management Division under it) to handle the work on the income declarations and income surveys involving public housing estates in Kowloon East in each of the past three years, and whether any delays in estate management work were caused as a result of such manpower deployment;

(2) whether it has reviewed if the biennial income declaration by PRH tenants is too frequent and if the requirement has caused nuisance to the tenants; if it has, of the outcome; if not, whether it will conduct such a review immediately; and

(3) whether it studied in the past three years changing the income declaration cycle to three years or more to reduce the degree of nuisance caused to the tenants concerned, alleviate Housing Department's workload, as well as release more manpower and resources to help enhance the quality of estate management work; if it did, of the outcome; if not, whether it can conduct such a study immediately?



     The Government's housing policy is to provide public rental housing (PRH) units to those who cannot afford private rental accommodation.

     To ensure the rational allocation of limited public housing resources, under the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA)'s Housing Subsidy Policy (HSP) and the Policy on Safeguarding Rational Allocation of Public Housing Resources (commonly referred to as the "Well-off Tenants Policies"), households that have lived in PRH for ten years are required to declare their household income, and thereafter biennially. Those with a household income exceeding the prescribed income limits have to pay 1.5 times or double net rent plus rates, depending on the amount by which the relevant limits are exceeded. Households with total household income and net assets value both exceeding the prescribed income and asset limits are required to vacate their PRH units.

     At the same time, under the existing statutory PRH rent adjustment mechanism, HA shall conduct a rent review every two years and vary the PRH rent according to the change in the income index between the first and second periods covered by the review. To collect the income data and to ensure the representativeness of such data, 2 000 PRH tenants are randomly selected each month by the Housing Department (HD), according to the actual household size distribution in a particular month, to participate in the "Survey on Household Income of Public Rental Housing Tenants" (the Income Survey).

     Income declaration required under the HSP and the Income Survey under the statutory PRH rent adjustment mechanism are two procedures with different purposes. However, as the sampled tenants for the Income Survey are selected randomly, some of them may be required to declare their household income under the HSP and the Income Survey one after another within a certain period of time.

     My reply to questions raised by Hon Paul Tse is as follows:

(1) and (3) For implementing the HSP and conducting the Income Survey, HD issues a notification letter to the tenants concerned with an income declaration form enclosed for their completion.  

     Regarding income declaration under the HSP, when processing income declaration forms returned by tenants, HD selects cases randomly for detailed checking and may also invite tenants and individual household members for interview in order to gather more information or documents. Tenants will be notified in writing of the results of checking individually. As for tenants who are required to pay additional rent, HD will issue notifications on the relevant details at least two months before the effective date of the new rent.

     As regards the Income Survey, to safeguard the quality of the data collected, HD conducts quality check on 5 per cent of the cases randomly selected from the 2 000 samples each month. HD will send notification letters to the selected tenants for documentary proof of income for verification of their declared information. Tenants concerned and individual household members may also be invited to attend an interview to provide more information or documents. To mitigate the burden caused to the selected tenants, no PRH tenant will be selected for Income Survey for more than once within a period of 12 months.

     Processing returned income declaration forms is only part of the duties of estate offices and the number of income declaration forms to be processed varies amongst different estate offices. Relevant estate offices will make suitable manpower arrangements accordingly. Hence, HD does not maintain any breakdown on the manpower required for carrying out the relevant duties, and the aforementioned duties have not caused any delay to estate management work.

(2) When formulating the HSP, HA has taken into account the fact that tenants' income may change substantially over a period of two years, and therefore considered that the declaration should be made biennially. The current declaration arrangement strikes a balance between the rational use of public housing resources and minimisation of inconvenience to tenants.

     On the other hand, the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee and the Audit Commission recommended in 2013 that HA should review the "Well-off Tenants Policies", in order to further ensure the rational allocation of limited public housing resources. To follow up on the recommendations, HA's Subsidised Housing Committee discussed the existing "Well-off Tenants Policies" in October 2014. Members have considered various preliminary options to refine the "Well-off Tenants Policies". Since every option has its own merits and downsides, no decision was made.

     HA will review its policies as and when appropriate to ensure the rational use of public housing resources, taking into account any impact on tenants.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:15


Print this page