Housing Society seeks to ease restrictions on subletting scheme

May 22, 2019 18:01
The Housing Society plans to allow entire flats qualified under the letting scheme to be leased out, rather than just spare bedrooms, sources said. Photo: HKEJ

A scheme launched by the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) in 2018 to ease the housing shortage has not been yielding positive results, and now the group is said to be in discussion with the government to loosen restrictions to make it work.

Under the “Letting Scheme for Subsidised Sale Developments with Premium Unpaid” rolled out in September last year, owners of designated HKHS housing units are allowed to rent out rooms to households waiting for public housing.

Although about 13,000 HKHS flat owners are qualified to apply for the scheme, only 13 of them have filed applications and only 53 households have applied to be tenants.

And while five owners have been approved to rent out their rooms, and 22 tenants have been found qualified to rent them, no match has been successful.

A spokeswoman for the HKHS said it is reviewing the scheme as well as discussing other proposals with the Transport and Housing Bureau in the hope of coming up with a revised scheme that will attract more flat owners and tenants.

The new scheme is likely to be launched in the middle of the year.

A spokesperson for the Housing Authority (HA) said it will conduct studies and consider whether to join the scheme based on the results of the HKHS review.

Sources said the HKHS plans to allow entire flats to be leased out, rather than just spare bedrooms, and flat owners to discuss leasing matters with prospective tenants on their own.

The new scheme may also allow two or more qualifiedindividualsor tenant households to rent an HKHS flat, according to the sources.

It is also understood that the scheme may be expanded to include subsidized flats with unpaid premiums, including those under the Home Ownership Scheme and Tenants Purchase Scheme.

The HA is set to discuss the suggestions in a meeting on June 21 and may announce its decision later that month at the earliest, according to the sources.

About 410,000 flats are expected to be made available under the scheme once it is revised, which means that the rental property market could see a surge in supply.

Meanwhile, the HKHS plans to keep the qualifications of flat owners and tenants for participation in scheme unchanged.

That means a flat owner must have owned the title of the unit for at least 10 years, while an eligible tenant must have been waiting for public rental housing for at least three years. The wait is at least six years for a non-elderly one-person applicant.

Anthony Chiu Kwok-wai, executive director of the Federation of Public Housing Estates and an HA member, said there should be a limit to the number of people living in a flat under the scheme; otherwise, the units might end up being like the much-criticized subdivided flats.

However, Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, who chairs the HA Subsidized Housing Committee, said it would be hard to set a reasonable standard for the number of people qualified under the scheme and authority may not have enough manpower to conduct detailed inspections on the flats for rent.

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