LCQ9: Disbursement of living subsidy to "N have-nots"
In order to alleviate the financial pressure on low-income households, the Community Care Fund (CCF) launched an assistance programme in December 2013 to disburse one-off living subsidy to "low-income households not living in public housing and not receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance" (commonly known as the "N have-nots"). CCF disbursed such living subsidy again on two occasions in January last year and January this year. On the other hand, the Chairperson of the CCF Task Force disclosed to the media in September this year that since the policy objective of the living subsidy assistance programme was to provide financial assistance for the aforesaid persons who could not benefit from the Budget's relief measures, and a number of relief measures were cut in the 2016-2017 Budget (including the relief measure of paying rent for public housing tenants), CCF would not disburse the living subsidy again next year. However, some households which have been given living subsidy previously are very dissatisfied with such a move. They pointed out that most of the "N have-nots" are living in sub-divided units and the living subsidy helps alleviate the financial pressure brought to them by the incessant rise in the rents of sub-divided units. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has assessed if the policy objective of the living subsidy assistance programme has been met; if it has, of the assessment outcome; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it has compiled statistics on (i) the rate of increase in the rents of sub-divided units and (ii) the percentage of rent in the expenditure of households of sub-divided units, in each of the past four years; if it has, of the relevant details set out by District Council districts; if not, whether it will compile such statistics; and
(3) given that (i) quite a number of those households which have been given living subsidy previously are strongly dissatisfied that they will not be given living subsidy again, (ii) the rents of sub-divided units are still rising incessantly at present, and (iii) the Hong Kong Housing Authority's target of maintaining the average waiting time for general applicants (i.e. family and elderly one-person applicants) for public housing at around three years cannot be met in the coming few years, whether the authorities will consider continuing to disburse living subsidy or launching alternative assistance measures; if they will, of the details; if not, how the authorities will address the discontent of the "N have-nots"?
The question involves different bureaux and departments, and the Government's consolidated reply is as follows:
The One-off Living Subsidy for Low-income Households Not Living in Public Housing and Not Receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) programme, launched by the Community Care Fund (CCF) in the light of the short-term relief measures introduced by the Budget released in the financial year of the launch, provides one-off cash subsidy to the "N have-nots" who cannot benefit from such measures. The CCF launched the programme thrice in December 2013, January 2015 and January 2016 respectively, through which eligible "N have-nots" may also receive short-term relief.
As fewer short-term relief measures were announced in the 2016-17 Budget, for example, no longer paying rent for tenants living in public rental housing (PRH), there is insufficient justification for the CCF to re-launch the programme to provide cash subsidy to those "N have-nots" not living in public housing and not receiving CSSA. On the other hand, comparing with the annual one-off cash subsidy provided by the CCF to "N have-nots", regular cash programmes, such as the Low-income Working Family Allowance (LIFA) launched in May this year and the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy, can provide a more sustainable and effective way to relieve the financial pressure of those "N have-nots" and their families. We will pay close attention to the application situation of the LIFA to ensure that families in need, including eligible "N have-nots" families, can receive timely assistance. In addition, the CCF will, taking into account views of the public and stakeholders, continue to launch other programmes to assist the underprivileged and low-income families.
As regards housing rental, the Thematic Household Survey on Housing Conditions conducted by the Census and Statistics Department in 2014 and 2015 consecutively covered sub-divided units (SDUs) in private domestic/composite buildings (excluding village houses) aged 25 and above in Hong Kong. According to the survey findings, the median monthly rental payments of SDU households in Hong Kong were $3,800 in 2014 and $4,200 in 2015, while the corresponding median rent to income ratios were 30.8 per cent and 32.3 per cent. Owing to sample size constraint, the two surveys cannot yield sufficient data for compiling breakdown statistics by 18 districts. On the other hand, the two surveys did not collect information on expenditure of households living in SDUs.
The Government is concerned about the impact of rising rental on private housing tenants. To solve the problem, we need to increase housing supply. The Government's total housing supply target for the ten-year period from 2016-17 to 2025-26 is 460,000 units, of which 280,000 units are public housing units (including 200,000 PRH units and 80,000 subsidised sale flats), so as to tackle the tight housing supply at source. For those who have pressing housing needs, they may apply for Compassionate Rehousing through the recommendation of the Social Welfare Department, or apply for earlier PRH allocation under the Express Flat Allocation Scheme.
Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:40
Issued at HKT 12:40