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LCQ6: Provision of barrier-free access to Tenants Purchase Scheme estates
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Han-pan and a reply by the Under Secretary for Transport and Housing, Dr Raymond So Wai-man, in the Legislative Council today (December 6):
     Quite a number of residents of the housing estates under the Tenants Purchase Scheme (TPS) have relayed to me that only stairs or very steep passageways are provided at the main external access of such estates, making it very inconvenient for the elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to access the estates. As the common areas in TPS estates are private areas, they are not covered by the Universal Accessibility Programme. The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA), being one of the flat owners of TPS estates, has all along been shirking its responsibility by merely requesting the Owners' Corporations (OCs) of those estates to provide barrier-free facilities or enhance such existing facilities on their own. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the current number of TPS estates where only stairs are provided at their main external access; how the Government renders assistance to the elderly and PWDs in accessing the estates concerned;
(2) given that a motion urging the Government to expand the scope of the Universal Accessibility Programme to cover TPS estates was passed at the meeting of the Panel on Transport of this Council on the 17th of last month, whether the Government has taken follow-up measures; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether, at present, the main external access of all TPS estates complies with the requirements under the Design Manual - Barrier Free Access 2008 and the Disability Discrimination Ordinance; if there are TPS estates which do not comply with the requirements under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, whether the Government has assessed if HA and the OCs of the estates concerned have to shoulder the relevant legal liabilities; of the Government's measures to prevent cases of non-compliance from happening?
     My consolidated reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Hon Chan Han-pan is as follows. 
     To facilitate the access to public walkways by the public, the Government launched in August 2012 the "Universal Accessibility" (UA) Programme to retrofit barrier-free access facilities at existing public footbridges, elevated walkways and subways maintained by the Highways Department. Later in 2016, in response to the aspirations of the public and Council Members, and in consideration of the principle of prudent use of public funds, the Government announced in the Policy Address that year to revise the ambit of the UA Programme. The walkways eligible for selection by the District Councils (DCs) for implementation in the next phase of the UA Programme (Next Phase) would no longer be confined to public walkways maintained by the Highways Department provided that they met certain criteria (note 1) , one of which is that the walkways are not privately owned. 
     Under the current ambit of the UA Programme, we still have over 100 items (note 2) under construction. As for the 48 items selected by the 18 DCs in the consultation exercise completed in September this year for implementation in the Next Phase, the Highways Department has engaged consultants to carry out the investigation and design work; the construction works are anticipated to commence progressively starting from the financial year 2019-20. We have all along been striving to overcome the difficulties and challenges encountered in delivering the retrofitting works with the aim of implementing the various items expeditiously. 
     At the Legislative Council Panel on Transport meeting on November 17 this year, Member moved the motion for the Government to expand the funding scope of the UA Programme to cover Tenants Purchase Scheme (TPS) estates, where flats are available for purchase, as well as subsidised sale flats under the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA); the said unbinding motion was passed. The Government has explained at the Panel meeting that day that the reasons for not including TPS estates and subsidised sale flats under the UA Programme were to ensure the proper use of public funds and to avoid the Government taking over land and relevant responsibility from private owners. Regarding the review over the funding scope of the UA Programme, as the Highways Department already has a considerable number of walkways in hand for implementation under the UA Programme, and in view of resources constraints, the Highways Department will first focus on dealing with those walkways which had already been suggested by the public and the DCs earlier. In the course of delivering the Next Phase, we will accumulate experience, and, depending on the actual circumstance in the future, explore if there are any need and scope for further expanding the ambit of the UA Programme.
     Same as any other private properties, all TPS estates, regardless of the number of flats sold, are governed by the Building Management Ordinance (BMO) (Cap 344), the Government leases (i.e. land leases) and the Deeds of Mutual Covenant (DMCs). Daily management issues of the TPS estates, including maintenance work in estate common areas, are discussed and resolved at meetings of management committees (MCs) or owners' general meetings convened by the Owners' Corporations (OCs) pursuant to the provisions of the DMCs and the BMO. The property management companies appointed by the OCs undertake the estate management work. As of today, OCs are formed in all TPS estates.
     HA, as the owner of unsold flats in TPS estates, appoints representatives to participate in the MCs of the OCs apart from paying the management fee according to its ownership shares. In order to encourage owners' participation in estate management and promote their autonomy, HA will not dominate estate matters and its representatives will maintain a neutral stance in voting on general management issues at OC or MC meetings, to let other owners decide on the day-to-day management of the estates. However, HA's representatives will encourage other owners to put emphasis on the overall interests of the estates so as to safeguard the rights and interests of all owners (including HA) as well as to ensure the quality and effectiveness of the management of the estates. HA's representatives will also take part in estate management and maintenance jointly with other committee members, and advise the OCs on the day-to-day management, maintenance and improvement works for common facilities, and requirements of DMCs and related legislation.
     In transferring the management responsibility of the estates to the OCs, HA has passed the relevant estate information and plans to the OCs. After taking over the management responsibility of the estates, the OCs have the sole responsibility for the management and maintenance of common areas and facilities in the estates. The OCs may carry out alteration and addition works including facilities for barrier-free access in consideration of the needs of the residents, and seek professional and legal advice as necessary regarding the relevant requirements and legal provisions. Information on the latest situation of the various facilities in TPS estates is maintained by the OCs and management companies. HA does not maintain such latest information.
Note 1: The walkways eligible for selection by the DCs have to meet the following criteria and not involve land resumption:
(a) the walkways span across public roads maintained by the Highways Department;
(b) they are open for public access from public roads at all times;
(c) the walkways are not privately owned; and
(d) the parties responsible for the management and maintenance of these walkways agree to such lift retrofitting proposals and are willing to co-operate with the Government during the implementation of the said lift retrofitting works as well as the subsequent management and maintenance works of the lifts.
Note 2: As of end October 2017, for the 145 items under the original programme, 64 have been completed and 71 are under construction. For the remaining 10 items, their design schemes and implementation programmes are to be formulated after settling issues related to planning, investigation, design and local consultation. For the 57 items under the expanded programme, three have been completed and 52 are under construction. For the remaining two items, their design schemes and implementation programmes are to be formulated after settling issues related to planning, investigation, design and local consultation.
Ends/Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:02
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