Implementation details of the revised "Well-off Tenants Policies" and the introduction of a frozen period for family applicants currently living in public rental housing
The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA)'s Subsidised Housing Committee (SHC) endorsed at the meeting today (February 14) the implementation details of the revised "Well-off Tenants Policies". SHC also endorsed the introduction of a frozen period for family applicants currently living in public rental housing (PRH).
In light of the increasing demand for PRH, SHC considered that while making the best efforts to increase PRH supply, it is necessary to examine ways to better utilise PRH resources at the same time to ensure that efforts would be focused on allocating PRH resources to those with more pressing housing needs. SHC examined the relevant issues at the meeting of October 31, 2016 and expressed in-principle views.
SHC subsequently endorsed amendments to the "Well-off Tenants Policies" at its meeting on December 9, 2016:
1. PRH tenants with household income exceeding five times of PRH income limits (PRHILs), or with assets exceeding 100 times of PRHILs should vacate their flats;
2. PRH tenants with private domestic property ownership in Hong Kong should vacate their flats, irrespective of their levels of household income or assets;
3. for tenants who do not have private domestic property ownership in Hong Kong and whose household income and assets do not exceed the levels in (1) above, if their household income is equivalent to two to three times of the PRHILs, they will still be required to pay 1.5 times net rent plus rates; if their household income is equivalent to three to five times of the PRHILs, they will be required to pay double net rent plus rates. Households that are required to vacate their PRH units but have a temporary housing need may apply for a fixed-term licence to stay in that PRH for a period of not more than 12 months, during which a licence fee equivalent to the double net rent plus rates or market rent, whichever is higher, is charged;
4. after living in PRH for ten years, tenants will have to declare both their income and assets in the biennial declarations, including whether they own any private domestic property in Hong Kong. If tenants choose not to declare their household income or assets, they will need to vacate their flats. Even though tenants with less than ten years' residence do not need to declare their income and assets, the Housing Department (HD) will carry out investigation upon receipt of complaints. Those found to own private domestic property in Hong Kong will need to vacate their flats, irrespective of their length of residence in PRH;
5. households whose members are all aged 60 or above, or with all members receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, or who are on shared tenancies will continue to be exempted from the "Well-off Tenants Policies"; and
6. implementing the revised "Well-off Tenants Policies" starting from the declaration cycle in October 2017.
SHC considered that the implementation arrangements for the revised "Well-off Tenants Policies" should be handled with care, and requested HD to further examine the implementation details and submit specific proposals to SHC. In light of Members' views, HD has looked into the relevant arrangements. At the meeting today, SHC further discussed the relevant implementation details and endorsed the implementation of the following arrangements:
1. Arrangements concerning income and asset declaration:
(i) simplify the arrangements for completion of declaration forms; and
(ii) conduct risk-based random checking on the information furnished by households.
2. In calculating asset limits:
(i) deduct lump-sum retirement benefits received under mandatory provident fund schemes, occupational retirement schemes and civil service pension schemes from the calculation; and
(ii) deduct lump-sum insurance claims and statutory compensations received due to death of family members in the tenancy, and claims under critical illness insurance policies received by family members under the tenancy from the calculation.
3. Exempt households with all member(s) receiving Social Welfare Department's Disability Allowance from the revised "Well-off Tenants Policies". For households with member(s) (not all members of the household) receiving Disability Allowance, they can continue to live in their PRH units even if their household income or assets exceed the relevant limits. However, they will need to pay the corresponding additional rent based on their income level. For households with private domestic property in Hong Kong, they will still be required to vacate their PRH units, even if they have member(s) receiving Disability Allowance.
4. An Assistant Director of HD can exempt households from the "no-domestic-property" requirement on a discretionary basis if they fulfill the following conditions:
(i) acquired interest in private domestic properties through operation of law;
(ii) but are not in a position to dispose of such interest; and
(iii) unable to reside in the premises.
5. Exempting households which have purchased subsidised sale flats using Green Form status from surrendering their PRH units until they take over the property purchased, and can continue to pay the prevailing level of rent during the interim period. For households which have purchased subsidised sale flats using White Form status or purchased private domestic property, HD will issue Notice-to-Quit to the households concerned, requiring them to return their PRH units, irrespective of whether the property purchased has been completed.
At the meeting today, SHC also endorsed the introduction of a frozen period for family applicants currently living in PRH.
Family applicants currently living in PRH have relatively less pressing needs for another PRH unit when compared with applicants living in private rental accommodation (especially those living in "sub-divided units"). Hence, SHC decided that starting from April 1, 2017, if all household members in a family application are currently living in PRH (whether from the same or from different PRH tenancies), the relevant application would be frozen for one year.
To avoid applicants deliberately evading the system at the time of registration, SHC agreed that once an application was frozen, the frozen period imposed would not be adjusted or cancelled on account of any subsequent addition/deletion of household members in the application, or deletion of household members from the existing PRH tenancy. Even if an application needs not be frozen at the time of registration, if the application subsequently meets the criteria for freezing due to addition/deletion of household members, or addition of household members in a PRH tenancy, the application concerned will still need to be frozen for one year.
According to the current policy, when non-elderly one-person applications under the Quota and Points System (QPS) switch to family applications, half of their waiting time under QPS will be credited to the family application, up to a maximum of 18 months. SHC agreed that for those non-elderly one-person applications which switch to family applications and have to be frozen in accordance with the new arrangement, if their waiting time which will not be counted under the current policy is less than one year, their family applications will be further frozen to add up to one year in total. If their waiting time which will not be counted under the current policy is one year or more, their family applications will not be further frozen. On the contrary, for a family application which has been frozen for one year on the date of registration, should one of the household members currently living in PRH subsequently switches to non-elderly one-person application, 30 points will be deducted as required under the QPS. However, the registration date of his/her previous family application before being frozen will be used as the basis for calculating his/her waiting time points and age points under the QPS.
Applications registered prior to the implementation date of the frozen period arrangement will not be affected by the new arrangement. Applications under the "Single Elderly Persons Priority Scheme", "Harmonious Families Priority Scheme" and "Elderly Persons Priority Scheme" will also be exempted. To prevent potential abuse of this exemption, SHC also agreed that if an application has been frozen for one year under the new arrangement in its capacity as an ordinary family application, even if the application subsequently switches to one under the "Harmonious Families Priority Scheme", the frozen period imposed earlier will not be cancelled as a result.
"The above arrangements will not reduce the average waiting time (note) for PRH in the short term. The supply-led principle under the Long Term Housing Strategy remains the key to resolving the supply-demand problem of PRH. However, in light of the increasing demand for PRH, it is necessary for us to examine whether we can better allocate PRH resources to applicants with more pressing need and also make the relevant policies more equitable," a spokesman for HA said.
Note: Waiting time refers to the time taken between registration for PRH and first flat offer, excluding any frozen period during the application period (e.g. when the applicant has not yet fulfilled the residence requirement; the applicant has requested to put his/her application on hold pending arrival of family members for family reunion; the applicant is imprisoned, etc). The average waiting time 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.
Ends/Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Issued at HKT 22:55
Issued at HKT 22:55