Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1) 982
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/PL/HG/1

Panel on Housing Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 15 December 1997, at 3:30 pm in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon CHAN Yuen-han (Chairman)
Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Member attending :

Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Public officers attending:

For item I

Housing Bureau

Mr LEUNG Chin-man
Deputy Secretary for Housing

Miss Sandy CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing

Housing Department

Mr Raymond A Bates, JP
Business Director (Commercial and Services)

Buildings Department

Assistant Director (Development) (Atg)

For item IV

Housing Bureau

Miss Sandy CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing

Housing Department

Mr LEE Chu-yin
Chief Housing Manager (Redevelopment)

For item V

Housing Bureau

Mr LEUNG Chin-man
Deputy Secretary for Housing

Miss Amy WONG
Assistant Secretary for Housing

Housing Department

Mr Marco WU
Deputy Director of Housing (Management)

Attendance by invitation:

For item IV

Hong Kong Temporary Housing Area Joint District Residents' Committee

Mr TSANG Hing-wing
Ms MAK Woon-siu
Mr CHEUNG Mei-keung
Mr HO Kai-ming
Miss LO Kit-han

Clerk in attendance :

Ms LEUNG Siu-kum
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2

Staff in attendance :

Miss Becky YU
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)3

I.Confirmation of minutes and matters arising

The minutes of the meeting held on 28 October 1997 (PLC Paper No. CB(1) 652) were confirmed.

Matters arising

Site settlement problem in On Ning Garden
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(1) 654(01) and (02))

2. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Deputy Secretary for Housing briefed members on the progress of rectification of the 96 defects associated with site settlement in On Ning Garden. As the developer concerned failed to complete the repair works of urgent categories of defects by the deadline of 28 November 1997, the Housing Department (HD) deployed its maintenance contractor on the following day to take up the remedial works. It was envisaged that urgent categories of defects with imminent hazards would be rectified within four weeks whereas repair works on the remaining defects would take another four weeks. Since the commencement of remedial works, HD held regular meetings with owners concerned with a view to monitoring the progress of rectification and the methods being used. The next meeting would be held on 17 December 1997. As regards the 170 defects not relating to site settlement, DS for H said that HD would act as a mediator between the developer and the owners on these defects.

3. As other estates in Tseung Kwan O did not seem to have site settlement problem, Mr Andrew WONG questioned the suitability of the site of On Ning Garden for construction purpose. The Business Director/Commercial and Services (BD/C&S) responded that there were other estates having the same site settlement problem. In fact, site settlement was a normal phenomenon in reclaimed land and further settlement was expected to diminish over time. The case of On Ning Garden in respect of site settlement problem had been referred to the Ombudsman for adjudication at the time of construction. Although it was ruled that there was no malpractice on the part of the Administration, the Ombudsman recommended that HD should secure a guarantee from the developer concerned and hence an undertaking of a 10-year guarantee period was furnished by the developer. BD/C&S assured members that the Administration would ensure that the developer would discharge his obligations in rectifying any defect relating to site settlement within the guarantee period.

4. On the role of the former Buildings and Lands Department in overseeing the construction of On Ning Garden, the Assistant Director/Development (Acting) (AD/D (Atg)) explained that this was processed in the same way as other private sector developments. Developers were required to appoint an authorized person and a structural engineer to oversee the project design and progress of construction. They were also required to submit plans in accordance with the Building Ordinance. The Buildings Department (BD) would not issue occupation permits unless confirmation was made by the authorized persons, registered structural engineers and registered contractors concerned that the completed development complied with the approved plans. AD/D (Atg) added that BD had reviewed the relevant records on On Ning Garden and no specific problems were found.

5. Mr LAU Kong-wah asked if the Administration would consider using grouting to rectify site settlement. BD/C&S cautioned that this might cause damages to the underground services. Furthermore, there was no guarantee that grouting could stop further settlement. BD/C&S said that HD was exploring other possible ways to reduce the effect of site settlement and owners concerned would be consulted before the commencement of repair works. As regards other defects, including falling concrete and rusting of reinforcement bars, AD/D (Atg) advised that BD was liaising with HD with a view to conducting a joint survey on the seriousness of these problems. To facilitate a better understanding of the situation, members requested and the Administration undertook to provide information in respect of rectification for site settlement and related defects as well as minutes of meetings between HD and owners concerned. Mr LAU remained concerned about the 170 defects not relating to site settlement and urged the Administration to press for expedient repair of these problems by the developer and to consider taking up the repair works in the case that the developer declined to fulfil its obligation.

II.Date and items for discussion at the next meeting

6. The next regular meeting would be held on Monday, 19 January 1998, at 2:30 pm to discuss "Rent policy and redevelopment assistance for tenants of factory estates built by the former Resettlement Department".

(Post-meeting note: The item was subsequently replaced by "Enforcement exercise against unauthorized installation of air-conditioners in public rental estates"; "Safety problems of facilities in shopping centres of public rental housing estates"; and "Re-housing policy regarding redevelopment of public rental estates".)

Special meeting on 20 December 1997

7. The Chairman advised that the Administration had proposed to brief the Panel on the White Paper on Long Term Housing Strategy Review on Saturday, 20 December 1997, at 10:00 am.
(Post-meeting note: As the Administration was not ready to brief the Panel, the meeting was subsequently cancelled.)

III Information paper issued since last meeting
(PLC Paper No. CB(1) 616)

8. Members took note of a progress report on identification of sites for the construction of public rental housing flats for elderly persons.

IV.Policy on Temporary Housing Areas (THA) and re-housing arrangements for THA residents

Meeting with the Hong Kong Temporary Housing Area Joint District Residents' Committee
(PLC Paper No. CB(1) 654 (03))

9. In response to the Chairman, Mr TSANG Hing-wing highlighted the salient points in the information paper. He said that it had been the prevailing policy that households in committed categories including clearances and redevelopment, compassionate and emergency re-housing were exempted from means testing to establish their eligibility for public rental housing (PRH). It would be unfair to the existing Temporary Housing Area (THA) residents if they had to undergo a comprehensive means test before entry as depicted in the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1997. Furthermore, the affected residents should have been re-housed to PRH had sufficient housing resources been made available. While acknowledging that the remaining 11 THAs would be demolished by the year 2000, Ms MAK Woon-siu considered it necessary for the Administration to announce a definite clearance time-table and the reception estates so that affected residents could make necessary arrangements.

Meeting with the Administration

10. Some members considered it a policy change if residents in THAs and cottage areas were required to undergo a comprehensive means test before admission to PRH, in particular for those who lived in THAs on or before 23 September 1995 whose only eligibility criterion for PRH was for the majority of family members to satisfy the seven-year residence rule. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing stressed that the Administration had fulfilled its pledge by making at least one re-housing offer to all households living in THAs in September 1995 by the end of 1997. The spirit of the means test was to ensure that the limited public housing resources were given only to those in genuine need of subsidy. The Chief Housing Manager/Redevelopment (CHM/R) supplemented that subject to the findings of the review on clearance policy, families displaced by clearance operations and failed the means test would be offered interim housing as they might still have a need for temporary housing. Nevertheless, their length of stay in interim housing would be restricted to a limited period of, say, one year.

11. On the remaining 11 THAs, CHM/R was confident that these would be cleared as pledged by the end of 2000. As regards the schedule for clearance, CHM/R said that this would hinge on the availability of re-housing resources. Nevertheless, the Administration would announce a time-table for the clearance of half of these THAs in mid-1998. Residents concerned would be notified nine to twelve months prior to the clearance so that they could make necessary arrangements. Mr Frederick FUNG was not convinced of the Administration's response and considered that the Administration should be able to draw up a definite clearance time-table for all THAs after the Housing Authority (HA) had finalized its annual housing allocation exercise in March 1998. At members' request, the Administration undertook to revert back to the Panel HA's decision upon conclusion of the allocation exercise.

12. Some members questioned about the re-housing arrangements for the affected residents. They were of the view that efforts should be made to re-house families displaced by clearance operations within the same district to minimize disruptions to their daily routine. CHM/R responded that the Administration was committed to identifying suitable re-housing resources within the same district for THA residents as far as practicable. Reception flats which were rejected by THA residents during "Direct Offer" would be allocated to other categories, such as applicants on the General Waiting List. CHM/R stressed that it was the Administration's intention to meet the needs of affected residents as far as possible, subject to the availability of sufficient re-housing resources and the entire THA clearance programme could only be accelerated if households concerned would lower their expectation on the location of reception estates.

V.Housing (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 1997
(Provisional Legislative Council Brief (Ref: HB(CR) 5/4/21))

13. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Deputy Secretary for Housing/1 (DS for H/1) highlighted the salient points in the Provisional Legislative Council Brief. Members then proceeded to the discussion session.

14. As regards the making of false declarations to the Housing Authority (HA), a member asked if the provisions proposed in the Bill would apply to all tenants or only to better-off tenants. DS for H/1 advised that any tenant knowingly making any false statement in respect of the application for a public housing rental flat would be liable to conviction under the Bill. On the basis upon which the additional fine of three times the amount of rent undercharged was arrived at, DS for H/1 explained that this would be calculated by reference to the difference between the market rent and the rent payable to HA for the relevant period.

15. In response to a question on the assessment of market value of Home Ownership Scheme and Private Sector Participation Scheme flats, the Deputy Director of Housing (Management) confirmed that at present, all applications for premium assessment were conducted by surveyors of the Housing Department. The prevailing charge for each assessment was $5,200 which included a re-assessment if necessary. Adjudication from the Lands Tribunal could be sought in the event of disputes over the premium assessment.

16. Owing to time constraint, the Chairman suggested and members agreed that the Bill would be examined in greater detail after formation of the relevant Bills Committee.

VI.Any other business

17. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 5:15 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
20 February 1998