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Thursday, Jul 29, 2021

Lawmakers raise concerns over NGO transitional housing project

Lawmakers raise concerns over NGO transitional housing project

Legislators are worried about the execution of converting hotels and guest houses into temporary housing, as the authorities have not yet laid out details such as the cost of utility bills and reinstating fixtures of the hotel rooms.
Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the hotel industry was adopting a "wait-and-see attitude" as there were concerns over the two-year lease term being too long.

Dr. Raymond So Wai-man, Under Secretary for Transport and Housing, said he understood the concerns lying. However, it is important to have a long and stable tenancy period as the project aims to help low-income families and those living in inadequate housing.

"Some hotel operators suggested using three months as a starting point for the tenancy period to provide greater flexibility. However, if we have to ask the tenants to move out only after three months, it is not feasible at all," he replied, adding that the hotel operators should consider thoroughly before participating in the scheme." he said.

Meanwhile, Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai is worried that the hotels and guesthouses would kick tenants out when the economy recovers. He also raised questions regarding security and tenants' daily necessities such as laundering and cooking.

So replied that participating hotels and guest houses are not allowed to ask tenants to move out within the first two years.

He also said the authorities are seeking suitable hotels that are equipped with public-accessible washing machines and cooking areas to join the scheme. "We encourage interested operators to reach out to us so that we can draft a list to match with our NGOs and conduct inspections."

He added one of the NGOs involved had already reached an agreement with a hotel, contributing 161 units to the scheme. The government has also been in contact with more than ten guest houses and NGOs.

The transitional housing project was suggested in the latest policy address, aiming to provide short-term housing to relieve the pressure of families living in unpleasant conditions and those waiting for public rental housing for a long time, as well as struggling hoteliers during the pandemic.

NGOs will be in charge of the overall operation, including selecting tenants and proposing rent levels. According to the government’s approval, the rent level will be set at 25 percent of the tenant's monthly income, or the cap of the current rental subsidy for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients, to be used as a reference point.

The subsidy for each room will cap at HK$133,500 for two years.

Last week, the Community Care Fund granted HK$95 million to the project. Authorities said around 800 rooms at hotels and guest houses would be involved in the pilot phase. Families are expected to move into the units in the first half of this year at the earliest.

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