Information Paper for the
Legislative Council Panel on Housing
This paper informs Members of the progress of regulating bedspace apartments (BSAs) under the Bedspace Apartments Ordinance and the rehousing of the displaced BSA lodgers.
2. The Bedspace Apartments Ordinance (Cap 447) (the Ordinance), which is administered by the Office of the Licensing Authority of the Home Affairs Department (HAD), was enacted in July 1994 to regulate the fire and building safety of BSAs. After enactment of the Ordinance, an exemption period was allowed for the operators to carry out the required safety improvement works for compliance with the Ordinance and to apply for the requisite licences. The exemption period ended on 30 June 1998. Thereafter, all BSAs must obtain licences for operation. To date, there are 57 licensed BSAs with 1 040 lodgers.
REGULATION OF BSAs
3 Of the 57 BSAs, 23 have been issued with "conditional" licences the renewal of which will depend on whether the operators have satisfactorily completed the improvement works stipulated in the licences. The Licensing Authority is monitoring these BSAs closely. Most of them have carried out the works and will have their licences renewed. For the remaining BSAs which do not comply with the conditions, the Licensing Authority may not renew their licences. HAD will invite the displaced lodgers aged under 60 to apply for accommodation in HAD's singleton hostels. There are at present about 400 vacant bedspaces which should be adequate to accommodate the lodgers displaced from these BSAs. Displaced lodgers aged over 60 will be assisted by HAD to apply for compassionate rehousing through Social Welfare Department (SWD).
4 In early 1999, HAD conducted an exercise with a view to identifying BSAs which had never been registered with the Licensing Authority. Staff of HAD visited about 3 000 private residential premises. HAD is compiling and analysing the findings.
REHOUSING OF BSA LODGERS
5 When the Ordinance came into full operation in July 1998, operators of 29 BSAs (with about 550 lodgers) previously registered with the Licensing Authority were unable or unwilling to obtain licences because their premises were not up to the requisite safety standards. Staff of the HAD visited all of these BSAs and offered assistance to the displaced lodgers. About 150 of them accepted HAD's offer to move to HAD's singleton hostels. Another 84 lodgers moved into public housing flats through compassionate rehousing on the recommendation of SWD. The remaining chose to look for alternative accommodation themselves.
6 The Administration will continue to implement the Ordinance to regulate the safety of the BSAs. Eligible BSA lodgers displaced by the implementation of the statutory licensing scheme will be offered rehousing as appropriate.
Home Affairs Bureau
Information Paper for the
Legislative Council Panel on Housing
The Administration's response to the deputation from the
"Concern Group on Cage House Problem"
(1) Singleton hostels administered by the Home Affairs Department (HAD)
The present occupancy rate of singleton hostels is about 40%. As the statutory licensing scheme for bedspace apartments was only fully implemented in July 1998, the Administration is still in the process of offering rehousing to the displaced lodgers. Therefore, the occupancy rate is expected to rise in the near future. Moreover, we need to reserve a sufficient number of bedspaces to meet any unforeseen demand for accommodation from BSA lodgers.
2 As suggested in the letter from the Concern Group, staff of HAD District Offices have already been conducting visits to all registered BSAs to provide advice and appropriate assistance to the lodgers therein. In particular, our staff conduct joint visits with the Social Welfare Department (SWD) to those BSAs likely to be closed down to offer rehousing assistance to concerned lodgers through our singleton hostel programme and SWD's compassionate rehousing scheme.
3 The house rules of HAD's singleton hostels are generally intended to maintain peace and harmony in the hostels, e.g. lodgers are advised to respect each other, to refrain from engaging in illegal activities and to treasure the properties of the hostels. In consultation with the lodgers and other parties concerned, the NGOs managing these singleton hostels keep these rules under review to ensure that they are reasonable and necessary. For example, prior to the opening of Sunrise House, HAD has consulted relevant parties, including Sham Shui Po Provisional District Board representatives, before finalising the house rules which are considered necessary in ensuring the security and comfort of lodgers in the hostel. To provide a channel for lodgers to air their views on the management of the hostel, the Salvation Army also holds regular meetings with lodgers' representatives to discuss ways to improve the management of the hostel.
(2) Enforcement of the Bedspace Apartments Ordinance (the Ordinance)
4 The Administration will continue to implement the Ordinance to ensure that all licensed BSAs will meet the requisite fire and building safety standards through regular inspections. Those failing to comply may have their licences revoked. Eligible lodgers displaced as a result of the implementation of the Ordinance will be offered rehousing as appropriate.
5 "Cubicle apartments" are not covered by the Ordinance which applies to residential flats in which there are 12 or more bedspaces for rent. Under the auspices of the Central Steering Committee on Fire Safety chaired by the Secretary for Home Affairs, HAD has an ongoing publicity programme to promote fire safety and building management. The Information Services Department conducted a major publicity campaign on "Fire Safety" in 1998/1999 and will conduct another campaign on "Fire Safety and I" in 1999/2000. Fire Services Department has published an information booklet entitled "Fire Prevention in the Home". These initiatives will enhance the community's awareness of fire safety and benefit building owners and occupants, including those living in cubicle apartments.
(3) Minimum living standard
6 The Bedspace Apartments Ordinance regulates the fire and building safety of BSAs. To ensure the safety of lodgers residing in BSAs, the Ordinance already stipulates the minimum width for passages between bedspaces as well as the means of escape.
7 The Bedspace Apartments Ordinance does not regulate the lodgers' living areas. The Administration does not intend to propose legislation to regulate the minimum (or the maximum) living areas of individuals. A person's living area is usually governed by factors such as market conditions, economy, personal finance and personal choice. The Administration considers that such regulation, even if it existed, would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.
(4) Public rental housing for bedspace apartments and cubicle lodgers
8. The Administration will continue to address the housing need of displaced BSA lodgers and cubicle lodgers. We have committed to shorten the waiting time for public rental housing progressively to 3 years by 2005.
9. As at 31 May 1999, 143 BSA lodgers have been rehoused to PRH units since the Bedspace Apartments Ordinance became operative on 1 July 1998. The Housing Department has set up out-reaching teams to visit and assist BSA lodgers to register on the General Waiting List (GWL). 1,534 BSA lodgers have been approached since October 1996, and 682 of them have been assisted to register on the GWL. Since 1994, 916 BSA lodgers have been allocated public housing flats.
10. If displaced by statutory closure, the eligible BSA lodgers who have registered on the GWL may benefit from the Anticipatory Rehousing Scheme through which rehousing can be advanced by 12 months.
11. Elderly BSA lodgers or lodgers with medical/social problems and in urgent need of housing will be considered by the Social Welfare Department for compassionate rehousing.
12. BSA lodgers aged 58 or above who are eligible to join the Elderly Priority Scheme or Single Elderly Persons Priority Scheme can normally be offered rehousing within two years from the date of application.
Home Affairs Bureau
Home Affairs Department