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Response by spokesman for Housing Authority to media enquiries
The following is issued on behalf of the Hong Kong Housing Authority:
     In response to press enquiries relating to the latest average waiting time (AWT) for public rental housing (PRH), a spokesman for the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) replied as follows today (August 11):
     As at end-June 2016, the number of general applications (i.e. family and elderly one-person applications) for PRH had increased to about 153 000. The AWT for general applicants was 4.1 years. Among them, the AWT for elderly one-person applicants was 2.4 years. As regards the number of non-elderly one-person applications under the Quota and Points System, it had reached about 135 300 as at end-June 2016. The target of providing the first offer at around three years on average is only applicable to general applicants.
     Waiting time refers to the time taken between registration for PRH and the first flat offer, excluding any frozen period during the application period (such as when the applicant has not yet fulfilled the residence requirement, when the applicant has requested to put his or her application on hold pending arrival of family members for family reunion, or when the applicant is imprisoned). The AWT for general applicants refers to the average of the waiting time of those general applicants who were housed to PRH in the past 12 months.
     The latest AWT for general applicants has exceeded four years. This situation calls for our attention. It shows that although the Government has been developing land for public and private housing in recent years, the fundamental problem of supply-demand imbalance in the case of PRH still persists - the increase in supply cannot catch up with the substantial increase in demand in the short term. On the supply side, the most crucial bottleneck we are now facing is land. As pointed out in the Long Term Housing Strategy Annual Progress Report 2015, assuming that all sites identified can be delivered on time for housing construction, these sites can be used for the construction of about 255 000 public housing flats in the next 10 years (i.e. from 2016-17 to 2025-26). There is still a gap when compared with our target of providing 280 000 public housing flats in the 10-year period. As time is required to identify land for housing construction, and the progress of individual projects is often affected by factors which are outside our control (e.g. the Town Planning Board needing time to consider land rezoning and there being different views from the community), we are facing great difficulty in increasing PRH supply. This inevitably will exert further pressure on the AWT. According to the estimate as at June 2016, in the five-year period from 2016-17 to 2020-21, the estimated total PRH production by the HA and the Hong Kong Housing Society is about 72 200 units. In addition, there is an average of about 7 000 PRH flats recovered every year which can be used for allocation to those on the waiting list. Hence, the total number of flats available for allocation in the five-year period will be more than the production figure indicated above.
     It is not possible to resolve the accumulated problem of supply-demand imbalance within a short period of time. Coupled with the continuously increasing new demand for PRH, the HA is not able to fully meet the public's demand for PRH in the short term. To meet the demand for PRH, the HA will continue to work closely with relevant government departments to identify sites for PRH development, including increasing the development intensity of developed areas, rezoning of existing land and development of new development areas. The implementation of these measures to increase land supply is not easy. The community as a whole needs to render its support and accept the necessary trade-offs. The HA will fully utilise each piece of land in order to construct more public housing units where circumstances permit. To optimise land use, we will fully utilise the development potential of each site and endeavour to provide the maximum residential floor area within the shortest construction time possible, taking into account the capacity of the local community, requirements of the Buildings Ordinance, planning restrictions and conditions of grant, and more. In addition, we will not give up any potential sites and will fully utilise sites for public housing production regardless of their size.
     On the demand side, in view of the increasing number of PRH applications and the lengthening of the AWT, as well as the difficulties mentioned above in increasing PRH supply, there is a need for the HA's Subsidised Housing Committee (SHC) to further examine how best to focus efforts in allocating limited PRH resources to applicants with more pressing need. On this, the Housing Department (HD) conducts a special analysis on the housing situation of general applicants every year and reports on the overall waiting situation of applicants. This information will provide the SHC with a more comprehensive picture in examining the relevant issue. For the analysis on the housing situation of general applicants as at end-June 2016, the HD expects that the preliminary results will be available in end-October or early November this year. The results will be submitted to the SHC for a comprehensive examination of the relevant issues. 
Ends/Thursday, August 11, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:37
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