Housing Authority's administration monster

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 1995, 12:00am

WE read with interest your editorial headlined, 'A controversial move', on the Housing Authority's (HA) intention to make public housing means tested.

However, until the HA speeds up its allocation process, this exercise can only be of minimum help to those on the waiting list.

The South China Morning Post has reported in the past that HA flats have in fact two waiting lists.

One is for families whose flats are being demolished as part of the Government's 'clean up' programmes. These people usually are moved into new housing estates and given priority for Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) apartments. Take the Rennie's Mill residents for example. The Government is keen to clear the area, so it gives them a pick of new homes and compensation, as well. Then they complain because the flats close by aren't completed yet.

The HA only allows a tiny number of new flats for people on the other waiting list. These are people who are renting flats or married couples who live with their families and want to apply for a flat of their own. These people are means-tested when they apply, but it is not uncommon for a wait of five years before they are allocated public housing. This is if they want a new flat. They will be offered a flat in an old housing estate or temporary housing area first, which have been vacated, and are often in older, out of the way places. However in every estate there are flats like this lying empty. Why? Because of the HA slow administration process.

When a tenant leaves the HA regains possession of the flat. It is then renovated at the Government's expense. Then it is allocated. Assuming it goes to the first name on the (second) list, an officer will contact the family and they may go and look at the flat. If they don't want it because it is 20 years old and in Tuen Mun, the flat gets passed back again. This goes round and round until someone down the list wants the flat.

In government housing estates there are many flats lying empty for years. It may be the estate is due for demolition in a couple of years so no one wants to live there. It may be the flat is out of the way and old and smaller than the new ones.

Or it might be the allocation process is taking too long. Imagine all those government departments, social workers, and forms in triplicate needed to process one flat! If the Government is willing to put more resources into means testing its tenants we appeal to the HA to look at its administration monster now, before it adds more unmanageable bureaucratic muddle to the whole process.

If the HA wants its tenants to open their books, then the administrators should take a good look at their records first. How many flats are empty? How long does it take for an old flat to pass to a needy family? Why are so many flats empty? NAMES AND ADDRESSES SUPPLIED