LCQ9: Full Rent Exemption Scheme for Elderly Households

     Following is a question by the Hon Luk Chung-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Housing, Ms Winnie Ho, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):
     The Full Rent Exemption Scheme for Elderly Households (the Scheme), which is launched by the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA), has been opened for application since December 2019. Applicant households must fulfil the general eligibility criteria, such as consisting of all family members aged 70 or above, and being regarded as "under-occupation households". Upon successful transfer to public rental housing (PRH) flats of suitable sizes, applicant households will be offered a one-off Domestic Removal Allowance (DRA), and are allowed to enjoy full rent exemption. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers and ratios of one-person and two-person elderly households living in PRH flats with an internal floor area of 40 square metres or above in each of the past five years;
(2) of the respective numbers of applications received and approved by the HA since the Scheme has started accepting applications; among the approved applications, of the respective numbers of those in which the households have been transferred to other flats and are awaiting transfer; and
(3) given that the HA will conduct a review on the Scheme this year, whether the HA will consider enhancing the Scheme, such as increasing the amount of DRA, and providing relocation services, basic fitting-out and furniture, etc, for households whose applications have been successful?
     My reply to the questions raised by the Hon Luk Chung-hung is as follows:
     The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) launched the Trial Scheme on Full Rent Exemption for Elderly Under-occupation Households (the Scheme) in December 2019. Under the scheme, Under-occupation (UO) households in Public Rental Housing (PRH) with all family members aged 70 or above are allowed to enjoy full rent exemption for life upon their transfer to suitably-sized units. Eligible households will be given a maximum of three housing offers of new or refurbished units in the residing estate or an estate in the same District Council (DC) district. They will also be provided with Domestic Removal Allowance (DRA).
     The Scheme aims at making use of existing public housing resources effectively to increase the supply of larger units for households of larger family size who are awaiting PRH allocation. The HA regularised the Scheme in December 2020; extended its coverage to elderly households with family members all aged 70 or above living in Housing for Senior Citizens of Type I Design and non-self-contained Converted One-Person units; and enhanced the district choice by widening it from the same DC district to the same PRH Application District (i.e. Urban, Extended Urban (including Tung Chung), New Territories and Islands (excluding Tung Chung)).
(1) Over the past five years (i.e. from 2018 to 2022), there is an average of about 3 700 one-person (1P) and two-person (2P) elderly households with all member(s) aged 70 or above living in PRH units with an internal floor area of 40 square metres or above, accounting for about 4 per cent of the entire 1P and 2P elderly households with all members aged 70 or above. 
(2) Up to end-January 2023, the HA has received and approved about 620 applications, among which, about 230 households have accepted allocation and successfully transferred to suitably-sized flats. After deducting about 80 cases of cancelled applications (for example, self-withdrawal of the elderly), the remaining about 310 households are waiting for allocation of suitable PRH unit.
(3) The purpose of granting DRA to PRH households by the HA is to assist eligible households to pay part of their removal expenses (e.g. basic fitting-out cost) and the amount of the allowance will be adjusted timely. The amount of DRA for 2022-23 is as follows:
Household Size DRA Rates
1 person $9,870
2 to 3 persons $16,460
4 to 5 persons $22,750
6 persons and above $30,390
     On the other hand, if the elderly households encounter difficulties during the course of transfer, we will, upon obtaining their consent, refer their cases to the Social Welfare Department or suitable social welfare organisations for assisting them to obtain appropriate support services.
     The HA will conduct a review of the Scheme on its effectiveness and related measures this year.

Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Issued at HKT 14:35