29 JAN 2013
Over 70 per cent of “N have-not” families receive no offer of public housing after extended wait of more than four years
Oxfam urges provision of rental subsidy and increase in public housing units
Just when the Government’s newly announced Policy Address lacks immediate relief measures for the housing woes of low-income households, a new survey by Oxfam Hong Kong titled “The Living Conditions of Tenant Households Who Have Been on the Waiting List for Public Rental Housing for Over 3 Years” found that over 70% of poor, non-CSSA private tenant households (the so-called “N have-nots”) have not received any offer of public rental housing even after waiting over four years.
Oxfam urges the Government to immediately provide rental subsidies and explore the feasibility of building more temporary housing for those “N have-not” families who are on the waiting list for public housing but never receive a housing offer within three years as promised. In addition, at least 35,000 public housing units should be produced per year in the long run.
Public housing waiting time far exceeds target
The survey interviewed 501 cases and noted that 73.7% of the total respondents who have been waiting for 4.4 years on average have not yet received even the first offer of public rental flats. Of these cases, over 76% have not gone through the vetting interview process.
Only 26.3% of the total respondents received a first housing offer with an average waiting time of 4.5 years, of whom nearly 78% had waited longer than the target time of three years. Meanwhile, 8.6% of the respondents were given the second offer of public rental flats with an average waiting time of at least 5.2 years.
Higher housing cost for “N have-not” households
The survey found that the median rent-to-income ratio was 30.1% for poor households, which was higher than that of overall private housing tenants at 24.3%. The rent per square foot for the small private housing units is comparable to that of the large private housing estates.
Poor tenants’ living space far below government standard
On the contrary, poor private housing tenants’ living density per person is inversely high. Results of the survey showed that the median living space per person was about 4.2 square metres (or 45 square feet), which is far below the minimum living space standard of 5.5 square metres per person according to the Hong Kong Housing Authority. Against the Government’s standard, about 61.8% surveyed households are overcrowded.
Inadequate rent allowance under CSSA Scheme
Under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme, recipients are entitled to a rent allowance according to the Maximum Level of Rent Allowance (MRA), which varies according to the total number of family members. But according to the government figures of January 2012, 60.3% of CSSA recipients renting private housing found CSSA payments insufficient to cover their rising rent.
Immediate government action needed
In conclusion, the survey revealed that the current supply of public rental housing does not meet the demand. Oxfam suggests the Government to study the option ofproviding rental subsidy, using hectares of unleased/unallocated government lands or vacant industrial buildings to provide temporary housing for those eligible non-CSSA tenants who are wait listing for public rental housing but never receiveeven the first housing offer within three years as promised. At the same time, the Government should also review the existing rent allowance system under the CSSA Scheme.
In the long run, the Government should increase the production of public rental flats from 15,000 to no less than 35,000 flats per year so as to ensure that applicants do not need to wait more than three years for their unit.
The survey, commissioned by Oxfam and conducted by Policy 21 Limited, aims to explore the living situations of non-CSSA low-income households who have been on the waiting list for public rental housing. A total of 501 cases were interviewed face-to-face from August to October 2012, constituting a response rate of 70%.
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 94 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.
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Wong Shek Hung
Stephen Fisher, Director General, the Government should honour its promise to poor families and deliver the first offer of public rental units within three years.
Wong Shek Hung, Acting Hong Kong Programme Manager, said that over 73% of the total respondents who have been waiting for 4.4 years on average have not yet received even the first offer of public rental flats.
Kalina Tsang, Senior Manager of the Hong Kong Programme Unit, suggested that the government should take immediate action, such as provide rental subsidy and temporary housing, to relieve the hardship of poor families renting private housing In the long run, production of public housing units needs to be increased.