LCQ21: Transitional housing
Regarding the provision of transitional housing by making use of vacant government properties and idle lands, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current number of vacant government properties (including school premises) and, in respect of each property, (i) the original use, (ii) the number of years for which the property has been left vacant, (iii) the site area and (iv) the total gross floor area (set out in a table by District Council district);
(2) of the number of government sites that were leased to non-profit-making organisations by the Government in the past five years on short-term tenancies for temporary uses, and (i) the location, (ii) the area and (iii) the current use of each site;
(3) whether it will launch a subsidy scheme to encourage and facilitate non-profit-making organisations to provide transitional housing by making use of the vacant government properties and idle lands; if so, of the details (including the eligibility criteria for application and selection criteria); and
(4) whether it will conduct a technical feasibility study on the conversion of vacant government properties into transitional housing; if so, of the details; if not, the other transitional arrangements in place to alleviate the demand for housing?
Having consulted the Development Bureau and the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, I set out the consolidated reply to various parts of the question raised by the Hon Alice Mak as follows:
The Government reckons that increasing and speeding up the supply of public rental housing (PRH) is the ultimate long-term solution to address the housing problem of low-income families. Hence, amidst the stringent supply of housing land, suitable sites should be reserved for construction of PRH. This will benefit PRH applicants who are in poor living condition.
With insufficient land and when new supply is not yet available, the Government will assist families that have been waiting for PRH for a long period of time and residents in poor living conditions by optimising the existing housing resources. Therefore, the Chief Executive's 2017 Policy Address suggests that the Government will assist and facilitate various short-term initiatives proposed and implemented by the community with a view to increasing the supply of transitional housing. The objectives of these short-term initiatives are to offer flexible and multiple relieves by making better use of the community resources on top of the Government's long-term housing policies and programmes; and to introduce programmes which are in line with the relevant Government policy objectives and complement with the services provided by the Government. The Government will support and facilitate such initiatives if necessary, including offering suggestions and assistance regarding the compliance of administrative and statutory procedures.
To make the best use of land resources, the Lands Department (LandsD) publishes on its "GeoInfo Map" website the information on vacant government sites (including vacant school premises (VSPs)) which are available for application by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for use by short-term tenancy (STT). The link is at: www.map.gov.hk/gih3/index.jsp?tab=320&lg=en.
The Government Property Agency (GPA) has also provided on its website a list of surplus government properties managed by different departments for reference by the public. The information can be found at the link: www.gpa.gov.hk/english/let/let.html. Under the established mechanism, NGOs may apply to rent the surplus government properties for various uses (including housing), provided that policy support has been given by the relevant bureaux/departments (B/Ds). The relevant NGOs should normally pay market rent, and be subject to statutory requirements under the laws and other terms and conditions, as well as payment of charges in respect of the property occupied. Depending on individual applications, consideration may be given to allow the NGOs to pay nominal rent if policy support has been given by the relevant B/Ds.
Various vacant government sites (including VSPs) and surplus government properties listed in the above may not be suitable for housing purpose due to various reasons (e.g. remote location, inaccessibility or other technical constraints). Relevant departments will need to consider on a case-by-case basis.
In respect of the vacant government sites (including VSPs) managed by LandsD and available for application by NGOs for short-term use, a total of 22 short-term tenancies were approved by LandsD for NGOs for various not-for-profit uses in the past five years (i.e. 2013-14 to 2017-18 up to the end of January 2018). Details of the relevant cases are set out in Annex.
To further support NGOs make better use of vacant government sites (including VSPs) for community purposes, the 2018-19 Budget has set aside $1 billion for application by NGOs which have obtained policy support to use individual vacant government sites (including VSPs) to subsidise the costs of basic works according to the needs of their projects. Government departments would provide technical advice during the approval process. The Development Bureau is formulating the detailed proposals on the implementation arrangements for the $1 billion funding, and will brief the Panel on Development in the latter half of 2018, before the funding submission is put forward to the Finance Committee. If the use of vacant government sites (including VSPs) with policy support involves transitional housing, and the applying organisation would like to receive subsidy on costs of basic works, the reserved funding would theoretically be applicable to such cases.
Ends/Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Issued at HKT 12:50
Issued at HKT 12:50