LCQ7: Declaration of income and assets under revised "Well-off Tenants Policies"
The revised Housing Subsidy Policy and Policy on Safeguarding Rational Allocation of Public Housing Resources ("Well-off Tenants Policies") have been implemented starting from the declaration cycle this month. Public rental housing ("PRH") households whose family income exceeds five times the prevailing PRH income limits ("PRHILs") or whose total net assets exceed 100 times the prevailing PRHILs shall vacate their PRH flats. Lump-sum retirement benefits received by any household member under mandatory provident fund schemes, occupational retirement schemes or civil service pension scheme are deductible in the calculation of total net asset value. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as some PRH households have pointed out that at present, the authorities have not set out in details the deductible and non-deductible items in the calculation of total net asset value (e.g. it has not been set out whether the lump-sum retirement benefits, received under occupational retirement schemes by household members who have quitted their jobs early before reaching retirement age, are deductible), whether the authorities will review and revamp the current information on the Well-off Tenants Policies web page in order to give households clearer guidelines;
(2) as a District Council member has relayed to me that, in reply to his enquiries about the calculation of total net asset value, the authorities have indicated that since there are different terms and contribution arrangements under various occupational retirement schemes, households may bring along all relevant documents to their respective estate offices to seek clarifications, of the criteria adopted by the authorities for determining whether the benefits received under such schemes are deductible in the calculation of total net asset value; and
(3) whether the authorities will step up the publicity work relating to Well-off Tenants Policies?
The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA)'s Housing Subsidy Policy (HSP) and the Policy on Safeguarding Rational Allocation of Public Housing Resources (SRA) are commonly referred to as the "Well-off Tenants Policies (WTP)". Households who have been living in public rental housing (PRH) for ten years are required to make biennial declarations. In addition, households who are granted new tenancy under the "Policy on Grant of New Tenancy" or households with their applications approved under the "Tenancy Management Policies for PRH" are also required to make biennially declarations pursuant to the WTP, irrespective of their length of residence.
In the light of the increasing demand for PRH, HA considers that while best efforts has all along been made to increase PRH supply, it should at the same time examine ways to better utilise PRH resources to ensure that such resources would be focused towards allocating to those with more pressing housing needs. HA endorsed revisions to the WTP and the implementation details of the policies in December 2016 and February 2017 respectively. Implementation of the revised WTP has commenced since the declaration cycle in October 2017.
My reply to the various parts of the question raised by Hon Michael Tien is as follows:
(1) and (2) According to the revised WTP, lump-sum retirement benefits received under Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) schemes, occupational retirement schemes (ORS) and civil service pension schemes may be deducted from the calculation of total net household asset value. Such benefits may continue to be deductible in full in subsequent declaration cycles. If long service payment/severance payment has been offset during the withdrawal of retirement benefits, such long service payment/severance payment would be treated as part of the retirement benefits and may also be deducted from the calculation of total net household asset value.
For the lump-sum retirement benefits received under MPF schemes, the part of voluntary contribution of the employer is considered part of the retirement protection and can be deducted from the calculation of total net household asset value. As the nature of employees' voluntary contribution and its accrued benefits is no different from deposits/investments, they cannot be deducted from the calculation of total net household asset value.
The above information has been uploaded to HA's website (www.housingauthority.gov.hk/en/public-housing/tenancy-matters/income-and-asset-declaration/index.html).
Generally speaking, the above arrangements also apply to the lump-sum retirement benefits received under ORS. Similarly, the accrued benefits of employees' own contributions under the ORS (i.e. contribution of employees in addition to the contribution made based on the terms of the scheme) may not be deducted from the calculation of total net household asset value. The above arrangements are also applicable to lump-sum retirement benefits received under ORS by individual household member upon early resignation before reaching the retirement age.
(3) To ensure that PRH tenants are aware of the revised WTP, HA will distribute information regarding the revised WTP to new tenants when they signed the tenancy agreement and details about the WTP will also be explained to them at that time. For existing households, HA has kept them informed of the revised WTP through various existing channels. Prior to the implementation of the revised WTP, HA has further launched a series of publicity programmes as set out below.
HA launched an extensive publicity programme for the revised WTP in July 2017, including displaying posters at all PRH estates and distributing promotional leaflets to all PRH households. These leaflets are also available to the public at the Home Affairs Enquiry Centres of various districts. Details of the revised WTP, Frequently Asked Questions, sample declaration forms, promotional videos, etc. have been uploaded to HA's website. The promotional videos are also broadcasted at the Housing Channel of every PRH estate.
In September 2017, HA proceeded to issue notification letters regarding the revised WTP to all PRH households. Households who are required to make declaration in October 2017 also received the declaration forms and the relevant guidelines. In addition, HA plans to present the details of the revised WTP at the Estate Newsletters to be published in November 2017, and disseminate relevant information to Estate Management Advisory Committees' (EMAC) members and PRH households at EMAC meetings of various estates from October to November 2017.
Apart from the permanent 24-hour HA hotline, HA has set up a dedicated enquiry hotline and started conducting road shows in PRH estates to answer households' enquiries on the revised WTP. PRH households may approach respective estate offices/district tenancy management offices, should they have any enquiries on the revised WTP. HA’s staff stand ready to assist.
HA will continue with the above publicity work to enable PRH households to understand details of the revised WTP and its implementation details clearly.
Ends/Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:42
Issued at HKT 12:42