on 5 June 1996
ITEM FOR ESTABLISHMENT SUBCOMMITTEE
OF FINANCE COMMITTEE
HEAD 150 - GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT: HOUSING BRANCH
Subhead 001 Salaries
Members are invited to recommend to Finance Committee the creation of the following permanent post in the Housing Branch -
1 Chief Engineer
(D1) ($80,450 - $85,400)
The existing establishment of the Housing Branch (HB) is in need of additional support at the directorate level to ensure the timely delivery of the Governments housing production targets.
2. Secretary for Housing (S for H) proposes to create one permanent post of Chief Engineer (D1) in HB to strengthen the Branchs capability of dealing with problems relating to the provision of housing sites and housing production.
3. The Government is committed to increasing land supply and accelerating housing production. It has set a target of building 316 000 public housing flats, comprising 141 000 rental flats and 175 000 subsidized home ownership flats, and facilitating the production of 195 000 private housing flats by April 2001.
4. Housing production is a complex process with a long lead time before physical construction can start on site. Over the years, the Government has built up a vigorous vetting system to ensure that housing production conforms to established planning standards and guidelines in respect of land use, development intensity, traffic impact and environmental considerations. It has also applied a similarly vigorous approach to the funding, planning and implementation of infrastructural projects under the Public Works Programme.
5. In the course of planning and implementing the housing and the corresponding infrastructural projects, problems arise from conflicts of departmental interests in respect of funding, implementation responsibility, procedures and adherence to standards and guidelines. There is a need to seek a compromise solution to strike a balance between conflicting requirements of different departments and very often mediation by HB is necessary in order not to jeopardise progress in the relevant housing development programme or infrastructural project.
6. Established on 18 November 1994, HB currently consists of five divisions. The Project Management Division, which is headed by a Principal Assistant Secretary at Government Engineer (D2) rank, is supported by two Assistant Secretaries ranked at Senior Engineer level. The Division is tasked to ensure delivery of the Governments flat production targets. Towards this objective, the Division is responsible for all aspects concerning the planning and timely provision of housing sites and implementation of related infrastructural projects. The Division also provides administrative and technical support to the Housing Project Action Team (chaired by S for H) in its deliberations.
7. In ensuring the timely delivery of the housing production targets, HB takes on a whole range of activities from the early planning stage through to the construction stage of the housing and infrastructural projects. These include -
(a) attending to draft legislation having a direct impact on the process of housing production like the Planning Bill and the Environmental Impact Assessment Bill;
(b) providing conceptual and policy input to the Planning Department in all stages of land use planning to ensure an adequate supply of housing sites;
(c) initiating and monitoring relevant planning and engineering studies;
(d) initiating and monitoring the planning and implementation of infrastructural projects;
(e) monitoring the flat production situation; and
(f) attending and resolving problems arising in all stages of the planning and implementation of housing and infrastructural projects at a policy branch level, through inter-departmental meetings chaired by the Project Management Division and follow-up actions.
8. Currently the Project Management Division is overloaded in discharging its responsibilities. The Principal Assistant Secretary is fully occupied in attending (weekly and full day) meetings of the Town Planning Board and its Committees and other important meetings, providing administrative support to the Housing Project Action Team and looking after the work of the Division as described in paragraph 7 above as a whole.
9. One Assistant Secretary is primarily responsible for initiating, planning and implementing infrastructural projects for speeding up housing production utilizing funds earmarked for implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on Land Supply and Property Prices. He is currently responsible for the planning and implementation of more than 40 infrastructural projects with total costs in excess of $6 billion under the Public Works Programme. The other Assistant Secretary is responsible for all other technical and administrative functions of the Division. His duties include attending to all studies (initiated by the HB or others) concerned with provision of housing sites, compiling flat production forecasts, acting as Secretary to and providing technical support to the Housing Project Action Team and supporting other activities of a technical nature such as providing input to the deliberations of the Sino-British Land Commission.
10. The Division has been playing an increasing role in coordinating efforts among Task Force departments (i.e. Planning, Lands, Buildings, Environmental Protection, Territory Development, Transport and Highways Departments) to resolve problems affecting the timely provision of housing sites and subsequent flat production. More and more projects whose progress has been affected by variations in departmental priorities or lack of infrastructural facilities have been brought to HB for quick resolution of the associated problems.
11. Since the setting up of the HB, the Project Management Division has coordinated departmental efforts in resolving problems affecting various housing projects under the monitoring of the Housing Project Action Team for speeding up the production of over 73 000 flats. However, the existing level of staff resources in the Division could only permit the timely attendance of the problems for speeding up the production of about 20 000 flats and could not expeditiously resolve problems affecting the production of the remaining 53 000 flats as the Division would have liked to.
12. There are clear indications that the number of problematic housing projects HB has to handle is on the rise. If we do not quickly enhance the staff resources of the Project Management Division, there will be danger that further problems affecting the production of these 73 000 flats as well as problems affecting the progress of other housing projects making up the target production of 551 000 public and private housing flats to be completed before March 2001 could jeopardise the Governments flat production targets. By that time, it would be too late to act as the time lost would be irrecoverable and the Government will not be in a position to honour its commitments.
13. There is therefore an urgent need to enhance the Divisions staff strength to deal with the problems of potential slippage in the provision of housing sites and housing production programme. With adequate staff resources, the Division would be in a position to take a more proactive approach in resolving housing production problems at an early stage, thus reducing the possible delays in housing projects.
14. Most of the problematic cases referred to the HB and dealt with by Project Management Division were issues which could not be resolved at departmental working level. These cases therefore required the personal involvement of the Principal Assistant Secretary who is already heavily loaded with important duties such as monitoring the overall situation of land supply and housing production in meeting the Governments housing production targets, administering the work of the Housing Project Action Team and attending to meetings and deliberations of Town Planning Board and its Committees as well as other important meetings.
15. It is therefore necessary that a new post be created at the directorate level so that the incumbent can effectively assist the Principal Assistant Secretary to deal with all these inter-departmental problems in a timely manner. A multi-disciplinary post of Chief Engineer is proposed. As additional staff resources are required to relieve the overloaded Principal Assistant Secretary, the problem cannot be solved by simply upgrading one of the Senior Engineer posts to Chief Engineer.
16. The Chief Engineer will principally concentrate his/her efforts in identifying and ensuring the timely availability of housing sites as well as providing technical support to the Housing Project Action Team in resolving issues hindering housing production. Specifically, he/she will attend to draft legislation, strategic and regional studies affecting supply of housing sites; coordinate departmental efforts in overcoming problems hindering the timely provision of housing sites and resolving problems and difficulties encountered in the course of housing production. The Chief Engineer will principally take over the above functions from the Principal Assistant Secretary whose job description is at Enclosure 1. The proposed job description for the Chief Engineer post and the proposed organisation chart of the Housing Branch are at Enclosures 2 and 3 respectively.
17. When created, we will identify a suitable officer from amongst the Architect, Geotechnical Engineer, Structural Engineer and Engineer grades for secondment to fill the proposed Chief Engineer post.
18. The financial implications one set out as follows -
Salary Cost at
No. of Post
We have included sufficient provision in the 1996-97 Estimates to meet the cost of this proposal. There are no other additional staffing and financial implications.
19. In October 1995 the Government has announced, in conjunction with the 1995 Policy Address, Housing Policy Commitments to increase land supply and accelerate housing production and has set a target of building or facilitating the production of 511 000 new flats in the six year period to 2000-2001. This comprises 141 000 public rental flats, 175 000 subsidized home ownership flats in the public sector and 195 000 flats in the private sector.
20. The Civil Service Branch supports the ranking and grading of the proposed post as it carries responsibilities appropriate for the D1 level. A multi-disciplinary post will allow a wide field of officers to be considered for the job.
21. The Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service has advised that the grading proposed for the post of Chief Engineer would be appropriate if the post were to be created.
Enclosure 1 to EC(96-97)23
Rank: Government Engineer (D2)
Duties: Responsible to the Deputy Secretary for Housing for -
1.* updating and monitoring the programme of land supply and housing production to meet the housing production targets for both public and private housing;
2.* co-ordinating government efforts in ensuring an adequate supply of land for both public and private housing, through programming of land production and infrastructural development, including the possibility of entrustment of public works to private developers, to bring forward the development of land for housing development;
3. programming and monitoring the development of both public and private housing projects and give early warnings of possible slippage or shortfall of supply;
4. controlling and monitoring the use of funds earmarked for implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on land Supply and Property Prices;
5. planning and co-ordinating government efforts in the establishment of a centralised information system on land supply and housing production;
6.* supporting the work of the Housing Project Action Team in resolving problems and conflicting interests which may cause delays in the processing of housing projects;
7. supervising the work of the Project Management Division.
* duties which will be partly taken over by the proposed Chief Assistant Secretary for Housing (Project Management)
Enclosure 2 to EC(96-97)23
Rank: Chief Engineer (D1), multi-disciplinary
Duties: Responsible to the Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing (Project Management) for -
1. Identification of suitable sites for meeting the housing production targets stated in the Policy Commitments and those arising from the Long Term Housing Strategy review;
2. Co-ordination with government departments in resolving problems to ensure an adequate supply of land for the production of both public and private housing;
3. Co-ordination with government departments and developers in resolving problems and difficulties encountered in the course of housing production (both public and private);
4. Providing technical support to the work of the Housing Project Action Team in resolving problems and conflicting interests which may cause delays in the processing of housing projects;
5. Commissioning and attending to housing related studies and applying the findings of the studies to the identification of suitable housing sites and speeding up housing production;
6. Attending to draft legislation affecting housing production; and
7. Undertaking such duties as assigned by the Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing (Project Management) from time to time
Enclosure 3 to EC(96-97)23
Warning : The chart is quite large and may take some time to download.
Last Updated on 3 December 1998