Easing way to let subsidized flats

Local | Stella Wong 22 May 2019

The Housing Society is considering allowing owners of subsidized flats with unpaid premiums to sub-let their entire home to households waiting for public housing, sources say.

This comes as the society admitted that the "Letting Scheme for Subsidized Sale Developments with Premium Unpaid" has yet to record even one successful deal eight months after the pilot program was launched last September.

Owners wishing to join the scheme must retain at least one bedroom for themselves.

The scheme aims to increase the supply of transitional housing by allowing flat owners to rent out spare bedrooms to families waiting for public housing for three or more years, or single applicants waiting for at least six years.

The owner must have owned the flat for at least 10 years, and they will set the rent together with the tenants.

A spokeswoman said the society has received 13 applications from owners, with 53 tenants seeking to rent so far.

Five owners have been approved to rent out their rooms and 22 tenants have been deemed qualified to rent them. However, there have been no successful matches thus far.

The society is now reviewing the scheme and holding discussions with the Transport and Housing Bureau to implement enhancement measures to attract more owners and tenants.

The measures are expected to be launched in the middle of this year, she said.

Sources said one measure is to allow owners to let the entire flat instead of individual bedrooms.

Another possible measure is to enable owners to let the flat to two or more tenants with the help of non-government organizations.

The Housing Authority is also considering joining the scheme. It will examine the details and announce the arrangements at the end of next month at the earliest.

The two bodies will have a total of 410,000 flats that meet the scheme's criteria.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who is a Housing Authority member and deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's panel on housing, supported the enhancement measures.

He believes allowing owners to rent the entire flat can attract more applicants, as it is not common to have owners and tenants living together.

But he urged the government to relax the criteria for single applicants, who have to wait for public housing for at least six years.

"They have the most urgent need for transitional housing as they cannot afford private property and need to queue for public housing for a longer time under the points system," he said.

He also feels the transitional policy should be more flexible to satisfy the short-term need of citizens.

Some are worried that the measures will create a flood of subdivided units among subsidized flats, but Wan said this is unlikely.

"Subdivided flats mostly refer to those with unauthorized building work, but the scheme is just allowing more than one household to share the same flat," he said.

The society will check to ensure there are no unauthorized building works before renting out a flat.

Wan also called on the government to drastically increase the supply of public housing estates to solve the shortage problem.

stellast.wong@singtaonewscorp.com

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