Home owners hang on to public flats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 1998, 12:00am

Well-off residents of public estates have been allowed to stay in their flats for as long as 12 years after becoming home owners, an investigation has found.

The Ombudsman's investigation claimed the Housing Department's failure to retrieve public units had stranded tens of thousands of people in genuine need on the waiting list for public housing.

It also found that about 9,000 flats had not been recovered within the authorised two-month period between 1992 and last year, although most buyers had bought new flats at reduced prices under various subsidised housing schemes.

Delays in most cases did not exceed six months, but three per cent of flats were not surrendered until up to three years later.

In one case, a flat was surrendered more than 12 years later after the department allowed the tenant to change his mind twice.

'It is unacceptable as the housing schemes, including Home Ownership Scheme, Home Purchase Loan Scheme or Private Sector Participation Scheme, are aimed at encouraging better-off tenants to vacate their flats,' said Patrick Lee Shue-wing, chief investigation officer of the ombudsman's office.

'There are neither deterrents nor penalties available. Housing staff generally count on the co-operation of tenants and use of persuasion to urge defaulters to surrender their rental flats voluntarily.

'The situation is highly unsatisfactory.' About 150,000 people are now on the waiting list for rental flats. Average waiting time is 6.5 years.

The investigation recommended the Director of Housing review existing recovery procedures and examine the need to introduce deterrents to discourage delays.

A Housing Department spokesman yesterday admitted there were deficiencies in recovering public rental flats. But a working group would be created to carry out a comprehensive review. Measures to deter delays will be announced in up to six months.