Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1) 1072/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/PL/HG/1

Panel on Housing

Minutes of meeting
held on Monday, 4 January 1999, at 4:30 pm
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon LEE Wing-tat (Chairman)
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon NG Leung-sing
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon Christine LOH
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo

Public officers attending :

For Item IV

Housing Bureau

Miss Sandy CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary (2)

Housing Department

Mr Marco WU
Deputy Director (Management)

Business Director/Allocation & Marketing (Acting)

Chief Housing Manager/Redevelopment

For Item V

Housing Bureau

Miss Sandy CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary (2)

Housing Department

Mr Marco WU
Deputy Director (Management)

For Item VI

Housing Bureau

Miss Sandy CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary (2)

Housing Department

Business Director/Allocation & Marketing (Acting)

Chief Housing Manager/Redevelopment

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 of previous meetings
(LC Paper No. CB(1) 682 and 683/98-99)

The minutes of the meetings held on 5 October and 2 November 1998 were confirmed.

II Information papers issued since last meeting

2. Members noted that two submissions from the Concern Group on Redevelopment of Housing Estate in Shamshuipo and the Kwun Tong Concern Group on Public Housing Policy were circulated vide LC Paper Nos. CB(1) 690 and 691/98-99 respectively.

III Date of next meeting and items for discussion

3. The next meeting would be held on Monday, 1 February 1999, at 4:30 pm to discuss the following:

    - Policy on transfer of public rental housing tenancies to second generation;

    - Management fees of Home Ownership Scheme estates; and

    - Study on bedspace apartment and related issues.

IV Re-housing policy for clearance of Temporary Housing Areas
(LC Paper Nos. CB(1) 597/98-99(03) and 692/98-99(01))

4. Before commencing discussion, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing (PAS for H) took the opportunity to clarify a point in the submission from the Action Group Against the Policy on Clearance of Temporary Housing Areas before 23 September 1995 circulated vide LC Paper No. CB(1) 597/98-99(03). She said that the Administration had never pledged to clear all Temporary Housing Areas (THAs) by 1997. The Chief Housing Manager/Redevelopment (CHM/R) added that the only pledges which the Administration had made in 1992 and 1993 were to re-house three-quarters of the temporary housing population by the end of 1997; to clear all pre-1984 THAs by the end of 1996; and to make at least one re-housing offer of public rental housing (PRH) to all households living in THAs in September 1995 by the end of 1997. All these pledges had been completed as scheduled.

5. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan remarked that the requirement for residents who moved in THAs after 23 September 1995 to register on the Waiting List (WL) for PRH and to move to interim housing (IH) units if their WL applications had not been matured at the time of clearance was at variance with the previous long-standing re-housing policy, under which THA residents were offered PRH flats direct upon clearance. CHM/R explained that it would be unfair to WL applicants if THA residents could be immediately re-housed to PRH by virtue of clearance. To eliminate the possibility of queue jumping and to ensure equity in the allocation of public housing resources, the Housing Authority (HA) endorsed the prevailing policy on 23 September 1995 and THA residents were required to sign a declaration confirming their understanding of the re-housing arrangements before moving in THAs. CHM/R advised that of the 4,800 households currently living in THAs, 3,000 households would be eligible for direct offer of PRH flats and the remaining 1,800 households would be re-housed to IH. However, it was estimated that some 360 out of these 1,800 households would have their turn for PRH came up by 2000, thereby further reducing the temporary housing population. CHM/R also confirmed that in order to minimize the disruptions of re-housing on THA residents, PRH flats would be allocated to those clearees whose WL applications would be matured within 12 months, subject to the income-cum-asset test.

6. Mr SZETO Wah however considered a direct comparison between THA residents and WL applicants inappropriate as unlike PRH which was open for application, re-housing to THA was subject to certain circumstances. He was of the view that in considering re-housing for THA residents, the Administration should take into account the special circumstances, such as consequence of divorce, under which they were admitted to THAs. The Business Director/Allocation & Marketing (Acting) (BD/A&M(Atg)) took note of Mr SZETO's concern but emphasized that residents were offered THA units in the first instance because they were not eligible for PRH. As such, direct offer of PRH to THA residents by virtue of clearance would not be fair to WL applicants, particularly when there were many unauthorized THA occupants. He stressed that the requirement for THA residents to register on WL was essential to prevent people from building illegal squatter huts indiscriminately as a stepping stone for re-housing to THAs and later to PRH upon THA clearance. Mr SZETO was not convinced of the Administration's assertion. The Deputy Director/Management (DD/M) however assured members that applicants with particular hardships would be offered compassionate re-housing upon recommendation of the Social Welfare Department. At members' request, the Administration undertook to provide information on the origin of households moving into THAs after 23 September 1995 who were not eligible for PRH.

    (Post-meeting note: The Administration's response was circulated vide LC Paper No. CB(1) 811/98-99.)

7. Mr Fred LI cautioned that the imposition of the arbitrary cut-off date of 23 September 1995 would create inequalities among THA residents. In response, BD/A&M(Atg) reiterated that all residents who moved in THAs after 23 September 1995 were apprised of the need to register on WL in order to be eligible for PRH upon clearance. However, squatters who were affected by clearance operations announced before 23 September 1995 but were not able to move in THAs before the date due to the non-availability of suitable THAs would still be eligible for direct offer of PRH flats upon clearance. As to whether the 51 households which moved in THAs after 23 September 1995 as a result of clearance of rooftop structures were also eligible for direct offer of PRH flats, CHM/R undertook to follow-up these cases. Admin

8. As regards the long waiting time for allocation of PRH to singletons in THAs, DD/M advised that most of the singletons who moved in THA before 23 September 1995 had been re-housed to PRH. However, owing to the limited supply of single-person PRH flats, priority for allocation was given to the elderly and other applicants would have to wait longer. He assured members that efforts had already been made to increase the supply of single-person PRH flats to meet demand.

9. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung was not convinced that the Administration should use refurbished older PRH blocks as IH in view of their dilapidated conditions. By way of illustration, the IH at Block 12 of Kwai Shing Estate, Blocks 10 and 11 of Shek Lai Estate should have been demolished as part of the redevelopment programme for the 26 problematic PRH blocks. In reply, DD/M stressed that the Administration was very cautious about the structural safety of IH. Inspection and renovation had been carried out to ensure that these PRH blocks were safe for occupation before they were turned into IH. As regards the time frame within which these three PRH blocks would be demolished, DD/M advised that the Administration had no plan to redevelop these blocks before 2005.

10. Mr LEUNG also expressed worries that re-housing to IH might cause undue disruptions to the daily routine of clearees as the majority of IH flats were located in remote areas such as Kwai Chung, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long. BD/A&M (Atg) took note of Mr LEUNG's concern but emphasized that IH was only intended for providing temporary shelter for clearees before their turn for PRH came up. The Chairman asked if clearees would be offered PRH flats in the event of slippage in delivery of IH flats in Tuen Mun. BD/A&M (Atg) advised that the Administration was confident that the first phase of the IH project in Tuen Mun would be completed as scheduled in end 1999. It was expected that upon completion, the entire project would be able to provide 8,000 to 9,000 IH flats to meet the demand.

11. Members agreed to bring forth the discussion on contracting out of the management of public rental housing estates.

V Contracting out of the management of public rental housing estates
(LC Paper No. CB(1) 692/98-99(06))

12. In view of the widespread speculation on corporatization of the Housing Department (HD), the Chairman considered that there was a need for the Administration to clarify the issue. DD/M advised that in line with the Government's general policy to contain growth in the civil service, HD had been contracting out some of its services to the private sector for some time. These included construction and maintenance work; cleaning and security guard services; as well as management of Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) Courts, newly built PRH estates, carparks and commercial centres etc. The launching of the Tenants Purchase Scheme (TPS) had prompted HD to reassess its future management and maintenance roles since TPS owners could choose their own management agency two years after the first flat in each estate was sold. HD would therefore need to compete with private management agencies (PMAs) for the management of TPS estates upon expiry of the two-year period. However, as HD had to operate within a structure which was subject to the Government regulations in respect of finance, accounting, procurement, pay and conditions, it might not be able to provide commercial services comparable to those available in the private sector. In May 1998, HD commissioned a consultancy study to examine the opportunities for further involvement of the private sector in some of its services, and how such further involvement of the private sector could offer new opportunities for HD staff. The relevant report was expected to be completed soon and would be made available for consideration by HA in mid-February 1999.

13. Mr Albert HO expressed worries that HD staff would become redundant if TPS owners decided not to employ HD as the property manager. DD/M took note of Mr HO's concern and advised that the subject would be addressed in the consultancy report. Having regard to the far-reaching implications of the proposed corporatization on HD staff, the Chairman urged the Administration to press for the expeditious release of the consultancy report to avoid further speculation, in particular on the possible changes in conditions of service for HD staff. DD/M assured the Chairman that HD would keep staff fully informed of the development and, if major changes were contemplated, consult them in advance on staffing arrangements and conditions of service. Ms CHAN Yuen-han remarked that it was an inappropriate time for corporatization in view of the current declining economic situation. She considered that HD should release the consultancy report to both the Panel and relevant HD staff associations for consultation in parallel with its submission to HA.

14. On the management of TPS estates, DD/M advised that this was carried out by the Property Management Unit (PMU) under HD for an initial period of two years in accordance with the relevant Deed of Mutual Covenant. The staffing structure of PMU was streamlined to take account of the fact that HD was no longer responsible for internal maintenance and tenancy control of TPS flats. This had also helped reduce headquarters administrative overheads in order that the management fees of TPS estates could be maintained at a comparable level with PMAs.

15. As regards the supervision cost charged by HA, Mr CHENG Kai-nam pointed out that the residents were reluctant to pay the cost, particularly when the quality of management was dissatisfactory. DD/M clarified that when HOS and TPS owners had set up their owners corporations and taken up the management of their properties, the supervision cost could be saved.

16. Members expressed concern that the quality of service contractors would be compromised if only the lowest tender was accepted. The situation would be further aggravated in the event of subcontracting as was the case with the cleansing service in PRH estates. To tackle the problem, Mr LEUNG considered it necessary for HD to stipulate in the service agreements minimum wages for different categories of labourers to ensure quality of work. DD/M replied that except for the security guard service, no minimum wages were set for other services. He nevertheless undertook to consider Mr LEUNG's proposal. In reply to a related question, DD/M advised that HD constantly reviewed the performance of its service contractors. Consideration had also been given to monitor contractors' performance through tenants and the Estate Management Advisory Committees (EMACs). Future renewal of service contracts would be subject to the recommendation of EMACs. DD/M also welcomed Mr SZETO's suggestions of providing copies of service contracts to EMACs and posting relevant extracts of contracts in estates for tenants' reference.

17. On the substantial difference in management cost for PRH estates managed by PMAs ($365 per flat per month) and HD ($505 per flat per month), DD/M attributed this to the simpler staffing structure of the former.

VI Re-housing arrangements for elderly households affected by redevelopment of public housing estates
(LC Paper No. 692/98-99(02) to (05))

18. Given that a district could be a very wide region, Ms CHAN was of the view that the arrangement to re-house elderly households within the same district upon redevelopment could not help much as the elderly tenants still had to adapt to a totally different community. The re-housing of elderly tenants affected by redevelopment of Yuen Long Estate (YLE) to Tin Shui Wai was a case in point. She considered that HA should take into account the special need of these tenants and identify a suitable site within Yuen Long Town for re-housing purpose. The Chairman also remarked that these households were willing to wait for a longer period of time for insitu re-housing.

19. In response, BD/A&M (Atg) assured members that in planning the re-housing arrangements, HA would project the number of elderly households affected by redevelopment and identify sufficient local re-housing resources for them. Well-planned social and recreational facilities would also be made available in reception estates. Moreover, HA would liaise with relevant government departments for timely provision of other facilities, such as medical and transport facilities, in conjunction with intake of residents at new estates. Besides, visits to sample flats would be arranged for the elderly to get familiar with the new environment. In the case of affected elderly tenants in YLE, CHM/R advised that HA had carefully examined other sites within Yuen Long Town, including Yuen Long Flatted Factory Site, On Hing Street Playground and Yuen Long Area 13, but concluded that these could not be used for re-housing resources. CHM/R added that in order to alleviate the anxiety of elderly tenants in YLE, an extra trip for these households to the reception estates in Tin Shui Wai would be arranged in due course. HA would also report to the Panel the feedback of the tenants after the trip. Admin

Yuen Long Flatted Factory Site

20. CHM explained that the Yuen Long Flatted Factory Site was too small for PRH, and the site had been redeveloped as HOS project which would provide some 300 units upon completion. Although the number of flats to be produced was limited, some members still considered that HD should make the site available to re-house some of the elderly tenants. CHM/R replied that HA would have to change the design of the project if this were to be used for PRH. However, as the construction work had already begun, it was not feasible to change the design.

On Hing Street Playground Site

21. CHM/R advised that the On Hing Street Playground Site was zoned as "Open Space" in the Outline Zoning Plan and was currently used as a playground by the Provisional Regional Council. To use the site for public housing would require the agreement of the Provisional Regional Council and the approval of the Town Planning Board (TPB) to rezone the site. Mr LEUNG remarked that TPB had a precedent of approving the application for rezoning of the playground in Tai Hang Tung for public housing purpose.

Yuen Long Area 13

22. CHM/R said that development of the Yuen Long Area 13 would take a long time since this would involve resumption of private land within the area. The Chairman considered that the Housing Bureau should seek help from the Steering Committee on Land Supply for Housing to expedite the land resumption process with a view to developing the area for re-housing purpose. He reiterated that the elderly tenants were willing to wait until reception estates in this area became available for them. PAS for H undertook to follow-up the issue. Admin

23. Mr LI suggested to build a single elderly block in Yuen Long for the elderly tenants, as the case in Lam Tin. He further commented that the size of 1-2 person flat was insufficient to accommodate two-person households. Given the current allocation standards of five-and-a-half and seven square metres per person for PRH, CHM/R considered that the current size of 1-2 person flats of 17 square metres had provided sufficient space for two-person households. At Mr SZETO's request, CHM/R undertook to follow-up the proposal on constructing single elderly block in Jordan Valley for re-housing elderly tenants of Ngau Tau Kok Upper Estate. Admin

24. Before concluding the meeting, the Chairman requested the Administration to relay the submission from the Concern Group on Elderly Tenants Affected by Redevelopment to HA for consideration.

VII Any other business

25. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 7:00 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
1 April 1999