LCQ22: Restrictions on renting out subsidised housing with unpaid premium
On January 7, 2015, in reply to my question on relaxing the restrictions on renting out Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) units as well as Tenants Purchase Scheme (TPS) units with unpaid premium, the Government indicated that "subsidised housing with premium not yet paid should only be used for self-occupation". On the other hand, the Chief Executive-elect (CE-elect) earlier proposed allowing such types of units to be rented out via social enterprises (SEs). However, the Chairman of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) Subsidised Housing Committee indicated that there would be enormous difficulties in the implementation of such proposal, and that according to a study conducted by HA, there were only around 2 500 such type of HOS units available for renting out. Regarding the relaxation of the restrictions on renting out subsidised housing with unpaid premium, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the details (including the commencement and completion dates, the methodology and outcome of the study) of the aforesaid study, and how the number of HOS units with unpaid premium available for renting out was calculated; whether HA, on top of the aforesaid study, conducted similar studies or discussions in the past five years; if so, of the details (including the relevant dates and outcome) of each study or discussion;
(2) whether the Government and the Hong Kong Housing Society have separately conducted studies on subjects relating to the renting out of subsidised housing with unpaid premium (including the proposal put forward by CE-elect) since 2012; if so, of the details (including the outcome); if not, whether the Government will conduct studies in this respect;
(3) whether it has studied which laws and regulations are required to be amended in order that the proposal of allowing subsidised housing with unpaid premium to be rented out (including the proposals for owners sharing rental incomes with the Government or renting out units via SEs) may be implemented;
(4) of the following current information on each HOS project: (i) the total number of units, and among them, (ii) the respective numbers and percentages of units with premium paid/unpaid premium;
(5) of the following current information on each TPS project: (i) the total number of units, and among them, (ii) the number and percentage of the units sold, and among the units sold, (iii) the respective numbers and percentages of the units with premium paid/unpaid premium;
(6) whether the Government has assessed the tenancy position of HOS and TPS units with premium paid through studying information on the stamp duty revenue collected from leases of properties or other methods; if so, of the respective numbers of HOS and TPS units rented out in each of the past 10 years, together with the respective percentages of such numbers in the relevant totals; the following current information on each HOS and TPS project: (i) the number and percentage of units rented out, and (ii) the rateable value of each unit on average;
(7) whether HA, the Census and Statistics Department or other government departments compiled statistics in the past 10 years on the average household size of various types of HOS and TPS units (e.g. one-person units, two-to-three-person units, etc) each year; if so, of the results (including whether the average household size in various types of units has been shown a decreasing trend); if not, whether they will consider compiling such statistics; and
(8) whether HA, the Census and Statistics Department or other government departments have assessed the current vacancy rates of HOS and TPS units; if so, of the details; if not, whether they will consider compiling such statistics?
Alienation of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA)'s subsidised sale flats is subject to alienation restrictions as stipulated in the Schedule to the Housing Ordinance (Cap 283). Owners must pay a premium to HA before they can sell, let or through other ways alienate the flats in the open market. Pursuant to HA's prevailing policies, only under special circumstances (e.g. divorce, emigration, death of owner, etc) and at nil monetary consideration, owners may apply for transfer of ownership to an authorised occupant of the property concerned or a successor of estate.
In the past, individual HA Members had raised the feasibility of allowing owners of Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats with premium not yet paid to let out their flats. However, HA has not conducted detailed discussion on the issue, and has not carried out any study on the number of HOS flats available for letting. Hence, no estimation in this regard is available. We understand that the Hong Kong Housing Society has not carried out any study on this issue either.
Before the payment of premium, HOS and Tenants Purchase Scheme (TPS) flats are subsidised housing. The objective of providing subsidy is to assist low to middle-income families to achieve home ownership and meet their housing needs. Taking into account the current requirements under the Housing Ordinance, if we are to allow owners of subsidised sale flats with premium not yet paid to let out their flats, we need to carefully consider the relevant policy, legal and implementation issues.
Relevant information on HA's HOS and TPS flats as raised in parts 4 and 5 of Hon Wu Chi-wai's question is at Annex 1. As huge volume of data is involved covering 198 HOS courts and 39 TPS estates with 1 266 blocks, we are unable to list out in detail the relevant statistics for individual courts/estates concerned.
As for the average household size of HOS and TPS flats, according to the results of the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD)'s Population Census/Population By-Census in 2006, 2011 and 2016, the average household sizes of different types of housing (include all subsidised home ownership housing, which covers HOS and TPS flats with premium not yet paid) are at Annex 2. The average household size of subsidised home ownership housing has decreased from 3.3 persons in 2006 to 3 persons in 2016. It is noted from Annex 2 that the average household size in Hong Kong declined in the past decade, both territory-wide and for individual housing types. This also reflects the trend of demographic change in Hong Kong.
HA's administrative records do not maintain statistics on the average household size of HOS and TPS flats. According to the results of the Public Housing Recurrent Survey conducted by HA annually, the average household sizes of these two types of housing from 2006 to 2016 are at Annex 3. The average household size of HOS flats decreased from 3.3 persons in 2006 to 3.2 persons in 2016, while that for TPS decreased from 3.8 persons to 3.3 persons in the same period. This is in line with the general trend of decreasing household size in Hong Kong as noted from the Population Censuses/By-Censuses.
Regarding the vacancy rates of flats, the Rating and Valuation Department (RVD) conducts vacancy survey at the end of each year to provide a snapshot of the vacancy position of various types of private properties. The Hong Kong Property Review published by RVD annually also covers the overall vacancy rate of private domestic properties. As owners of subsidised sale flats are required to pay premium to the Government before selling or letting out their properties in the open market, the nature of these flats are different from private domestic units which may be traded freely in the open market. Hence, the aforementioned vacancy survey does not cover the vacancy situation of subsidised sale flats. HA and C&SD do not have information and have not conducted surveys in relation to the vacancy situation of HOS and TPS flats.
As for the tenancy position of HOS and TPS flats with premium paid, since it is not necessary to provide the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) with information on whether the property is HOS or TPS flats, or whether premium payment has been made during stamping applications, IRD is unable to assess the tenancy position of these flats.
Ends/Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:40
Issued at HKT 16:40