Housing body to look at easing estate plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 January, 2000, 12:00am

The Housing Authority appears to have softened its stance on the controversial plan to surrender estate management to private firms.

The body now says it will consider having its housing officers continue to manage 'a portion' of its 167 estates.

This contrasts with its earlier position of privatising all estate management and getting rid of 9,000 staff as soon as possible.

Authority vice-chairman Tony Miller said yesterday the pace and scale of privatisation would depend on the response of private firms and staff.

'With the increasing management costs and limitations in raising rents, the authority must find the most economically effective ways of management and maintenance of rental flats,' he said.

'Letting the private sector take over more of our job can save money and is an easy way.

'Whether we should continue managing a portion of the estates - like Singapore - depends on market response and staff response.

'Some officers may want to join the private sector but others may want to stay in the civil service.' Mr Miller promised privatisation would not proceed too quickly.

The Alliance of Housing Department Staff Unions has warned against mass lay-offs and has threatened radical action.

An authority taskforce looking into privatisation has finished its report, which will be tabled at the authority's full meeting on January 27.

The report recommends completing the scheme in up to 10 years, with the first stage phased in from the middle of the year. The Executive Council will be consulted.

Mr Miller, who is also Director of Housing, was asked at yesterday's Legislative Council housing panel meeting why the Housing Department needed to keep so many senior posts when privatisation was under way.

The department has sought to 'update' the 30 directorate officers' job responsibilities, while four other directorate posts costing $9.23 million a year will be retained to help implement the privatisation plan and sell public units.

Mr Miller said there was still much work to be done.