LCQ17: Statistics relating to the revised "Well-off Tenants Policies"
The revised Housing Subsidy Policy and Policy on Safeguarding Rational Allocation of Public Housing Resources (the revised Well-off Tenants Policies), implemented since this month, have tightened up the relevant requirement under which public rental housing (PRH) households are required to vacate their PRH units if their family incomes or their total net assets have exceeded the revised limits. It has been reported that such requirement has triggered a spate of applications by PRH tenants for deletion of higher-income household members from the tenancy of public housing to avoid their family incomes exceeding the limits. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of applications for deletion of household members from the tenancy of public housing received by the Housing Department (HD) in each of the past three years;
(2) of the respective numbers of applications for deletion of household members from the tenancy of public housing received and approved by HD since the revised Well-off Tenants Policies was endorsed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority in December last year, with a breakdown by the reason for deletion (including that the member concerned no longer resides in the unit or has deceased) and by whether the member concerned was the tenant's child;
(3) of the number of enquiries regarding the revised Well-off Tenants Policies received by HD from PRH tenants since this month; the measures currently in place to help those PRH households who are required to vacate their PRH units under the revised policies but have practical difficulties in doing so; and
(4) as the Chief Executive has indicated in her Policy Address just delivered that the Government will, in future, substantially increase the supply of units under the Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme (GSH) so that PRH households with the means may apply for purchasing such GSH units and then vacate their PRH units for allocation to PRH applicants, whether the authorities will consider suspending the implementation of the revised Well-off Tenants Policies so that tenants who are required to vacate their PRH units under the revised policies will not lose the opportunity for purchasing GSH units?
The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA)'s Housing Subsidy Policy and the Policy on Safeguarding Rational Allocation of Public Housing Resources 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 biennial declarations pursuant to the WTP, irrespective of their length of residence.
Since the demand for PRH far exceeds supply, 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 various parts of the question raised by the Hon Wong Kwok-kin is as follows:
(1) and (2) HA does not keep statistics on the number of applications by PRH tenants for deletion of family members, but maintains the number of approved deletion cases. For the past three years (i.e. 2014, 2015 and 2016), the number of approved cases were about 36 200, 33 900 and 33 800 respectively. For the first two quarters of 2017 (i.e. from January to June 2017), the number of approved cases was about 21 800, among which about half of the deleted persons were children of the tenants. There are various reasons for deleting family members from the tenancy. Among the above-mentioned 21 800 cases, about 13 500 and 7 300 cases fall under the categories of "no longer residing in the PRH flat" and "deceased members" respectively, while the remaining cases involve admission to elderly home or having enjoyed other subsidised housing benefits, etc.
(3) Declarations under the WTP are conducted in April and October each year. Over 200 000 households are required to conduct biennial declarations each year, among which only around 1 000 households are required to declare in October. In deciding to implement the revised Policies in the declaration cycle in October 2017, HA has taken into consideration that this cycle would involve fewer households, which enables HA to better handle and assess the operation of the revised WTP. This arrangement also has a relatively smaller immediate impact on PRH households as a whole.
Take the declaration cycle in October 2017 as an example, HA issued notification letters to the households concerned in late September 2017, reminding them to return the declaration forms by the end of November. For households whose income or assets exceed the prescribed limits under WTP or with domestic property ownership in Hong Kong, HA shall terminate their tenancy agreements by serving the households "Notice-to-quit" by the end of August 2018. Households who are required to vacate their PRH units but have temporary housing need may apply for fixed-term licences to stay in PRH for a period of not more than 12 months. During the stay, these households are required to pay a licence fee equivalent to the double net rent plus rates or market rent, whichever is higher. Therefore, these households should have adequate time to make their future housing arrangements.
Also, for households who are required to vacate their units, if their household income and net asset values drop below the prevailing income and net asset limits for three consecutive months or due to other permanent reasons, and the households do not have private domestic property ownership in Hong Kong, they may apply for continuous renting of their current PRH units or grant of tenancy and payment of rent at an appropriate level.
HA has set up a dedicated enquiry hotline for the WTP. An average of about 140 enquiries are handled by the hotline every day.
(4) The Chief Executive has announced in the Policy Address that the Government would emphasise on housing supply and step up efforts in increasing the supply of housing units on the basis of the Long Term Housing Strategy. Based on the figures as at end-September 2017, the estimated total public housing production of HA and the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) in the five-year period from 2017-18 to 2021-22 is about 100 300 units, comprising about 75 200 PRH units and about 25 100 subsidised sale flats.
In 2017, HA pre-sold some 2 100 flats under the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS), whereas HKHS will put up another 600 flats for pre-sale. HA is preparing for the pre-sale of HOS projects in 2018. If various preparatory work is carried out smoothly, about 4 400 HOS flats can be offered for pre-sale in 2018.
The Chief Executive has also proposed in the Policy Address that more Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme (GSH) flats be supplied among newly built public housing in future. HA is reviewing the effectiveness of the GSH Pilot Scheme.
To conclude, PRH households with home ownership aspirations may apply for the purchase of new subsidised sale flats using Green Form status, or purchase subsidised sale flats with premium unpaid in the HOS Secondary Market. Households, who are required to vacate their PRH flats pursuant to the WTP and are issued fixed-term licences, may also purchase subsidised sale flats using Green Form status. If HA decides to regularise GSH, such households with fixed-term licences may also purchase GSH flats offered in future using Green Form status.
Ends/Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:50
Issued at HKT 16:50