Mr CHAN Chun-ying moved the following motion:
“That the 39 Tenants Purchase Scheme (‘TPS’) estates are already over 30 years old, and due to the slow progress of repair and maintenance works for those buildings and their public facilities, the appearance and interior of the buildings have become old and dilapidated and the common areas and facilities in the estates aged and worn out, which has made the residents incredibly anxious yet with no solutions; this Council urges the Government to comprehensively review the TPS policy and fully play its role as the major owner to actively promote the enhancement of property management and maintenance standards for TPS units, so that the residents will live and work in peace and contentment.”
MR CHAN CHUN-YING:
Deputy President, I move that the motion, as printed on the Agenda, be passed.
Clothing, food, housing and transport are the issues people need to face in their daily lives. Among them, clothing, food and transport are relatively easy to address, while only the housing problem has long plagued Hong Kong people. Home ownership has always been an aspiration for the general public, including the grass-roots tenants of Public Rental Housing (“PRH”). Following Hong Kong’s return to China, the SAR Government introduced the Tenants Purchase Scheme (“TPS”) in 1998 to enable PRH tenants to purchase the units they were living in at affordable prices. The aim of TPS is to assist able PRH tenants to buy their own homes and become homeowners, thereby increasing the home ownership rate of Hong Kong’s population.
The policy was quite popular at the time. During the eight years of TPS implementation, the Hong Kong Housing Authority (“HA”) offered some 183 700 PRH units for sale to tenants in a total of 39 PRH estates in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. The average subscription rate was as high as 78%, with 143 000 PRH tenants becoming owners. However, more than 40 000 households continued to rent after the end of the subscription period, and HA remains the only major owner of these estates. To date, 570 000 residents have joined TPS.
Prior to the introduction of TPS, the Government had already given considerable consideration and made arrangements for the quality, safety and future maintenance of PRH units. HA had carried out comprehensive investigation and completed all necessary maintenance and repair work prior to the sale of the TPS estates. HA had also provided a seven-year Structural Safety Guarantee for the TPS estates. During the guarantee period, HA had been responsible for all structural repair and maintenance works relating to structural components such as columns, beams, walls and floor slabs, including repair works for concrete spalling and cracking. In addition, HA had also made a one-off injection of $14,000 per residential unit to the Maintenance Fund for each TPS estate to cover the cost of post-sale repairment works. Furthermore, if a tenant reported that an installation in the flat was faulty prior to the purchase of the flat, HA would carry out the final one-off repair for that flat so that flats in the TPS estates were sold in good condition. Evidently, the Government has been responsible in fulfilling its obligations under TPS.
Under the Government’s design, the property management of the TPS estates is the same as that of ordinary private properties. Both are also governed by the Building Management Ordinance (“BMO”), relevant land leases and deeds of mutual covenant (“DMCs”). Day-to-day management matters are handled by owners’ corporations (“OCs”) in accordance with BMO and DMCs by convening management committee or OC meetings for discussion and resolution.
Currently, OCs have been established in all TPS estates. Property management companies appointed by OCs are responsible for carrying out all structural repair and maintenance works to all common areas and facilities in the estates. It is the Government’s intention that residents of the TPS estates should have a safe, decent home and living environment.
However, during my recent visit to the 36-year-old Cheung On Estate on Tsing Yi Island, one of the TPS estates, I have noticed obvious concrete spalling and wall cracks in many buildings. Let me show you some pictures here (The Member displays the first picture).
(The Member displays the third picture) This picture shows the condition of a ceiling in a public area.
(The Member displays the fourth picture) This picture shows me in person; this is my back.
In fact, many common areas and facilities in the estate are old and dilapidated. The ceilings are peeling from dripping water, the water pipes on the outside walls are corroded and rusting. The estate is also infested with rats. The quality of life of the residents has been seriously affected. Some residents have relayed to me that the Maintenance Fund provided by HA back in 1998 when they bought their flats has long since been exhausted. Many necessary repair works have been repeatedly delayed, with no specified timeline for when they will be carried out. Despite their repeated requests for government assistance, they have always been rebuffed with grandiloquent and high-sounding words. Compared to the property management of PRH estates not under TPS, the residents feel abandoned by the Government and have no way out.
The TPS estates were formerly PRH estates. As the sole owner of PRH estates, HA is responsible for the maintenance and management of not only its properties but also the public facilities in housing estates. However, after the conversion of the PRH estates to the TPS estates, HA went from being the sole owner to being the only major owner among many other owners. Although HA has sent its staff to participate in the management of estates in its capacity as an owner, it often adopts a neutral stance at OC meetings, on the grounds that it encourages other owners to manage the estates themselves. This has resulted in the dilapidated appearance and poor living conditions of the TPS estates, with property values hovering at a low level 25 years after the introduction of TPS. This is a clear departure from the Government’s original intention of introducing TPS.
In contrast, the Government has devoted a lot of manpower and resources in the management and maintenance of other PRH estates. For example, HA has already carried out drainage improvement works in 46 PRH estates last year and is expected to continue with the improvement works in 81 PRH estates this year. It has also launched large-scale cleaning and anti-rodent operations, and installed large numbers of rodent guards in many PRH estates. Clearly, the Government can do a professional job of estate management. Many PRH estates have even become hotspots for tourists to “check in”, such as Choi Hung Estate in Wong Tai Sin, Lai Tak Tsuen in Tai Hang and Nam Shan Estate in Shek Kip Mei. It is striking to see the difference in the management effectiveness between the PRH estates and the TPS estates, even though both are government-owned properties.
HA has a wealth of experience in managing PRH estates. In addition to exercising its voting rights at OC meetings, HA should also take the initiative to provide professional advice on estate management and actively promote changes in the outdated property management of the TPS estates. The Government should seriously face up to its role as an owner and its social responsibility in order to live up to the trust of the residents.
The majority of the TPS estates are over 30 years old, and their buildings have serious age-related problems. Repair and maintenance works are urgently needed. By moving this motion, I hope that the SAR Government will fulfil its responsibility as the major owner and actively participate in the management of the TPS estates, so that it can work with other owners to improve the current slow progress in the repair and maintenance of TPS units.
The Government should fundamentally change its management philosophy for the TPS estates and dispel the myth of mixed ownership, with the aim of aligning the management and maintenance standards for all government-owned properties, including the PRH estates and the TPS estates.
In addition, according to the Government’s arrangement under TPS, all maintenance and management responsibilities for the common areas and facilities within the TPS estates should be shared among the owners, and the relevant expenditure is currently allocated to the Maintenance Fund for each TPS estate. However, as time goes by, the necessary expenses for maintenance increase, putting a strain on the Maintenance Fund. I suggest that the Government reconsider the vesting of management rights of common areas and facilities in the TPS estates. If the Government can consider these facilities to be open to the public and take back their management rights, I believe that the management costs of the TPS estates can be reduced accordingly.
Once the Government has successfully prompted OCs to initiate the maintenance process, it has an inescapable responsibility to pay the share of costs that each tenant should bear, and it should also consider providing low-interest or interest-free loans to owners in financial difficulties, so as to effectively solve the current financial problems of the TPS estates, facilitate the commencement of maintenance works as soon as possible, and provide a decent living environment for hundreds of thousands of residents living in the TPS estates.
Deputy President, I would like to stop here for now and hope that Members will give more valuable views on the motion. Thank you, Deputy President.
MR CHAN CHUN-YING:
Thank you, Deputy President. I am very grateful to Mr LEUNG Man-kwong and Mr CHAN Hok-fung for proposing amendments to this motion on the Tenants Purchase Scheme (“TPS”) units. As a Member from the financial sector, I have only become aware of this issue through my contacts with local residents after setting up my district offices. However, both of the two Members have worked in local districts for many years and they understand the local situation and public sentiment. Their amendments have enriched and strengthened my call for the Government to face up to its responsibilities in my original motion.
When the Government introduced TPS, the management of estates was to be undertaken by owners’ corporations (“OCs”), and the management and maintenance of common areas and facilities in estates were to be undertaken by property management companies (“PMCs”) appointed by OCs. This has undoubtedly underestimated the complexity of managing a large mixed tenure estate, which differs from the management of private buildings, and there was also a lack of timely adaptation and improvement of policies. Today, the situation in the TPS estates is a “lose-lose” situation for both the residents and the Government.
In his amendment, Mr LEUNG Man-kwong mentioned that the Government should fully play its role as the major owner to actively perform its function of overseeing the management of the estates. He has also proposed to revise the Marking Scheme for Estate Management Enforcement and the transfer arrangements in his speech. At the same time, Mr CHAN Hok-fung has suggested that the Government make good use of its experience and professional knowledge in estate management; in accordance with the principle of safeguarding the overall interests of estate residents, exercise its responsibilities as the major owner to actively participate in the work of estate management and OCs; and raise questions about the ownership of public spaces.
These views coincide with the proposals I have made in my speech on the motion. Both from the perspective of social responsibility and from the perspective of owners, the Government should actively participate in the work of estate management for the well-being of residents. I therefore support the amendments proposed by the two Members, and I hope that Honourable colleagues who support the motion will also support all the amendments.
MR CHUAN CHUN-YING:
Thank you, President. I am grateful to the 25 Members who have expressed their valuable views and suggestions on the motion on the Tenants Purchase Scheme (“TPS”) units.
There are currently hundreds of thousands of people living in the TPS estates. If the Government had done a good job, there would not have been so many complaints. If the Government continues to adopt a rigid attitude, the situation will never improve. I hope that after listening to the views of Honourable colleagues, the Government will review the TPS policy, transform its management philosophy, introduce new ideas and improve the management and maintenance of public rental housing, so that residents can truly live and work in peace and contentment.
I urge Members to support the passage of my motion. Thank you.