I refer to the letter by Naseer Ahmed ("Officials must check empty public flats", September 17) and wish to stress that the Housing Department spares no effort in tackling tenancy abuses and will ensure rational allocation of limited public housing resources to needy households.
The department has adopted a three-pronged approach, viz. detection/prevention, in-depth investigation and publicity/education to achieve this purpose.
At estate level, our well-trained management staff will conduct biennial inspections of each of the 730,000 public rental housing flats, on top of the day-to-day patrols carried out by supporting staff, to detect any tenancy abuse and to understand the occupancy status of the flats.
At headquarters level, we have set up a central team - the public housing resources management subsection - manned by some 100 experienced officers, to carry out in-depth investigations on cases suspected of tenancy abuses/false declarations.
It also conducts publicity campaigns on tenancy abuse to supplement tenancy control at estate level.
In recent years, the central team has intensified its efforts to investigate 8,000 occupancy-related cases and rigorously check 5,000 income or assets declarations annually.
Amidst the growing community concerns on proper use of public rental housing flats, the department has deployed 30 additional officers to the central team for one year, starting in April, to conduct investigations on an additional 3,000 occupancy-related cases and 5,000 income or assets declarations.
Apart from detection by our own staff, the department has also enlisted community support and encouraged tenants and the public to report suspected abuse cases by launching a series of publicity/education programmes.
Coupled with voluntary surrender and other reasons, the above-mentioned efforts have enabled the department to recover some 7,000 public rental housing flats on average each year from existing tenants for reallocation. Furthermore, some 240 tenants have been convicted of abusing public rental housing flats in the past three years.
In a similar vein, the department endeavours to reduce the vacancy rate of these flats. As at end June 2013, the vacancy rate was maintained at 0.5 per cent, well below the performance target of 1.5 per cent.
Tony Liu, assistant director, Housing Department