Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1) 1218
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/PL/HG/1

Panel on Housing
Minutes of special meeting held on Monday, 23 February 1998, at 4:30 pm in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon CHAN Yuen-han (Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Members absent :

Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee (Deputy Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon CHEUNG Hon-chung
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting

Public officers attending :

Housing Bureau

Mr Andrew R Wells, JP
Deputy Secretary for Housing

Chief Assistant Secretary for Housing

Clerk in attendance :

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

Staff in attendance :

Miss Becky YU
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)3

I White Paper no Long Term Housing Strategy in Hong Kong
(PLC Paper No. CB(1) 943(01) and (02))

The Chairman advised that the purpose of the meeting was for members to continue discussion on the White Paper on Long Term Housing Strategy in Hong Kong.

Chapter 1 -- Housing Demand

2. As regards the possibility of increasing the safety margin of 6%, the Deputy Secretary for Housing (DS for H) advised that this would not be possible for the period from 1997/98 to 2000/01 as most housing projects were already under construction. For the period from 2001/02 to 2005/06, the Administration had identified land for producing 480,000 housing flats or a yearly average of 96,000 flats which already represented an additional safety margin of 13% above the annual production target of 85,000 flats.

Chapter 2 -- Housing Supply: Sources and Constraints

3. Members considered that the Administration should take into account the actual housing needs rather than the state of the private property market in implementing the land disposal programme for the private sector. They cautioned that the Administration might not be able to achieve the annual production target of 35,000 private housing flats in the event of poor market situation. DS for H reiterated that the pledge for annual provision of 85,000 flats, including 35,000 private housing flats, was a long-term objective. While the Administration was committed to allocating sufficient land for both public and private housing development over the period from 1997/98 to 2001/02, the amount of land disposed of each year for the private sector might vary, depending on the market demand. The next rolling five-year Land Disposal Programme covering the period 1998/99 to 2002/03 would be announced in April 1998. DS for H assured members that the Administration would keep the programme under regular review to ensure adequate supply of land to meet demand. He added that a land bank would be in place so that additional land could be put onto the market when demand so justified. A member remained concerned about the hoarding of land when the market price was below expectation. DS for H responded that the Administration was of the view that drastic fluctuation in the property market was not desirable. The Chairman emphasized the need to maintain a sufficient reserve in the land bank as past experience showed that property prices would soar in the event of inadequate land reserve.

4. As to whether the Administration would consider increasing the proportion of public housing to make up the shortfall in private housing as a result of poor market condition, DS for H advised that all working assumptions for the housing demand model, including market situation, would be updated regularly with a view to deriving new projections on housing demand and flat production requirements. The Administration would review the ratio between public and private housing in the light of these projections.

5. Having regard to the increasing public aspirations for larger flats, a member was of the view that the Administration should take into account flat sizes in the disposal of land for housing. DS for H responded that on public housing, the Administration's first priority was to help those who were in genuine need of public rental housing (PRH) flats before considering improvements to the living conditions. Moreover, the current space allocation standard of 7.5 square metres per person for PRH was considered adequate. The Chief Assistant Secretary for Housing (CAS for H) supplemented that unlike public housing where there was a fixed population density of some 2,000 persons for every hectare of land allocated, the Administration had limited control over the space allocation in private housing. Notwithstanding this, efforts such as identification of larger lots for disposal would be made to encourage private developers to build larger flats to meet demand. The member nevertheless pointed out that the Administration could specify in the Building Covenant the number of flats to be produced for each land lot.

6. A member sought clarification on the lack of Administration's response to public views on increasing land supply by reclamation. DS for H advised that as the subject fell under the purview of the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau, this had been included in the Territorial Development Strategy Review. He assured members that the Administration had taken into account public views in developing reclamation-based sites for housing projects. CAS for H added that the development of the identified Strategic Growth Areas, which were mostly formed by reclamation, would produce additional 270,000 flats between the period from 2006 and 2011.

Chapter 6 -- Public Rental Housing

7. On the transfer of public housing tenancies, some members remained of the view that the restrictions on grant of new tenancies to adult members of deceased principle tenants were unfair, in particular to tenants not living in Trident Blocks which would be put up for sale under the Tenants Purchase Scheme (TPS) and to those who had been re-housed to PRH as a result of clearance operations. DS for H reiterated that as a matter of equity, public rental tenancies should not be allowed to be passed on automatically from one generation to the next, particularly when there was still a substantial outstanding demand from the Waiting List (WL). Adult members of deceased principal tenants should be required to undergo a comprehensive means test before the grant of new tenancies to ensure that limited public housing resources were allocated only to those in genuine need of subsidy. DS for H supplemented that the spirit of TPS was to promote home ownership among PRH tenants, and that the Administration did not rule out the possibility of including other rental block types under TPS in future.

8. As regards the yardstick for the means test, DS for H advised that operational details had yet to be worked out by the Housing Authority, but the basic principles would be modelled after the existing policy applicable to better-off tenants viz. a means test covering both income and net assets.

9. On relief of overcrowding, DS for H clarified that applications from PRH tenants living in overcrowded conditions for transfer to larger units would be processed in accordance with the prevailing housing policy. For those seeking additional flats for overcrowding relief would be required to apply through WL for equity sake. The Chairman was not convinced of the Administration'ss response since there were genuine cases where additional flats were required, such as the addition of family members of two single persons sharing the same PRH flat. Furthermore, only 3,000 larger units were available each year for allocation to some 60,000 applicants currently seeking overcrowding relief.

Chapter 7 -- Groups in Special Need

10. As regards housing needs of single person households, DS for H informed members that the Housing Authority would consider the feasibility of allowing single person households to purchase Home Ownership Scheme flats at an appropriate time, in the light of the availability of resources.

11. On new arrivals from China, a member expressed concern about the upsurge in demand on WL consequent upon relaxation of the existing majority rule. CAS for H advised that based on analysis of past cases, the majority of new immigrants were coming for the purpose of family reunion and hence the number of applicants on WL was not expected to rise substantially. Nevertheless, it was envisaged that the household size of WL applicants would increase. To this end, the Administration would review the flat mix in new PRH estates in order to meet the changing housing needs.

12. Before concluding, the Chairman remarked that members who wished to seek further clarification on the White Paper were requested to forward their concerns to the Secretariat for onward transmission to the Administration.

II Any other business

13. The Chairman reminded members of the next two meetings scheduled for 16 and 26 March 1998. However, in view of the far-reaching implications of the Tenants Purchase Scheme, members agreed to advance discussion of the subject from 26 to 16 March 1998. Consequently, the agenda items on "Senior Citizen Residence Scheme" and "Recommendations for improvement to prevent a re-occurrence of the incident of fallen glass panel in Ping Tin Shopping Centre" scheduled for the meeting on 16 March 1998 would be deferred to 26 March 1998.

14. There being no other business, the meeting closed at 6:30 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
27 March 1998