Information Paper for the Provisional Legislative Panel on Housing

Overcrowding Relief in Public Housing Estates


This note informs Members of the policy on providing overcrowding relief (OR) to households in public housing estates.

Definition of Overcrowding

2. A household is considered to be "overcrowded" if its living density is lower than the prevailing minimum space allocation standard. Overcrowding is triggered by changes in household size but more significantly by improvements in space standards. As the allocation standards have improved over time, households previously not considered to be "overcrowded" may become so following an improvement in the allocation standards. The minimum allocation standard in 1973 was 3.25m2 internal floor area (IFA) per person. This standard has been revised several times over the years. In 1987, the standard was further relaxed to 5.50m2 IFA per person. Since December 1991, two sets of minimum space allocation standards at 5.5 m2 and 7m2 IFA per person have been adopted for meeting the respective median rent-to-income ratio of 15% and 18.5%.

Arrangement for Overcrowding Relief

3. The major way to relief overcrowding is by transfer to a more spacious unit. Applications for such transfer (known as 魀nternal transfer? are voluntary. Each year, Housing Department sets aside a quota of 3,000 flats to meet requests for transfer of flats by public housing tenants on different grounds, among which is improvement of living space. Alternatively, overcrowded households can also apply through the Waiting List as a means to relief overcrowding.

4. Due to limitation of available resources, efforts on overcrowding are mainly focused on those with more serious overcrowding problem i.e. those with living density below 4.5m2 per person. Flats not taken up by these households will then be used to resolve the overcrowding condition of those households with a higher living density but below 5.5m2 per person.

Overcrowding Situation

5. The numbers of overcrowded households who lived at a density of 5.5m2 per person in the past ten years are given at the Annex. As at February 1998, there are 8,675 families with a living density below 4.50m2 IFA person and 20,603 families with a living density between 4.50m2 IFA and 5.50m2 IFA per person. From April 1997 to February 1998, 8,750 overcrowded cases were resolved. Among these households, 1,745 numbers have acquired a larger flat through OR while the others have improved their living condition through either home purchase, Comprehensive Redevelopment Programme or subsequent deletion of household members.

6. In the 1995 Policy Commitments, we have pledged to rehouse at least 24,000 such families over the next three years. We are confident that by September this year, we would meet this pledge.

7. The addition of family members upon family reunion does have impact on the overcrowding condition. Over the past year, a total of 7,207 new arrivals were added into 5,131 households, about 34% (1,756 households) of which resulted in overcrowding.

8. The high refusal rate by overcrowded households to offers of flats has hampered the OR process. From April 1997 to February 1998, 1,138 offers were made under the revised OR arrangement and 578 households refused the offers, representing a refusal rate of 51%, compared with 62% of last year. The most cited reasons are mainly unsatisfactory flat size, floor level and orientation. As at February 1998, 168 households who refused three OR offers without acceptable reasons have their OR eligibility frozen for one year.

Overall Assessment

9. The high refusal rate and the addition of family members upon family reunion do, to some extent, counter the results of the OR exercises. Nevertheless, Housing Department will continue to endeavour to tackle the overcrowding problem within all constraints of competing demand on housing.

Housing Department
March 1998



No. of Overcrowded Households at Density below 5.5m2

as at
Total no. of
No. of overcrowded households%

(as at Dec. 97)

* Households living at a density between 4.5 and 5.49m2IFA per person were not considered as overcrowded until January 1992.