Date
24 July 2017
Ombudsman Connie Lau (inset) says a family of three or four applying for a public rental flat in an urban district has to wait up to seven years in extreme cases. Photos: CNSA, HKEJ
Ombudsman Connie Lau (inset) says a family of three or four applying for a public rental flat in an urban district has to wait up to seven years in extreme cases. Photos: CNSA, HKEJ

Ombudsman blasts housing officials over rental flat waiting time

Hong Kong housing authorities are under fire from a government watchdog over inaccurate claims about waiting times for rental flats.

The Office of the Ombudsman said the claims are misleading, Apple Daily reports.

It released an official report after investigating 110 complaints covering the past five years.

The watchdog said it found 283,000 pending applications for public rental housing.

The number is inconsistent with claims by the Housing Department that the average wait is 3.6 years.

The figure, announced quarterly by the government, does not include the waiting time for applications under the Express Flat Allocation Scheme, the Ombudsman said.

It said the Housing Department lumped five types of applications into its calculation of waiting times.

Applications in four categories were given priority, including three for elderly applicants and one for less desirable flats.

Ordinary families, which make up the majority of applicants, face a longer wait, it said.

More than half of applicants wait no less than three years and a quarter up to five years.

A family of three or four applying for a public rental flat in an urban district has to wait up to seven years in extreme cases.

The investigation also revealed that the government calculated the average wait from the moment an application is submitted to the time the first offer for housing is made.

However, some applicants have had to wait a further 2.5 years before they are given a second offer if they rejected the first one.

Ombudsman Connie Lau said the Housing Department should remind applicants that there is no benchmark for waiting times for a second or third offer.

That will help them decide whether or not to decline a first offer.

Lau said the Housing Department rejected her request for waiting times to be published for public housing units across different districts and types of applicants.

Housing officials said such information is not useful, even misleading, because past data does not always reflect future trends.

Lau dismissed the assertion, saying the public has been misled too many times.

The Housing Department said it has been transparent in reminding the public that waiting time estimates could vary, depending on supply and demand.

It called for more land to be made available for housing development.

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