LCQ13: Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly OwnersFollowing is a question by the Hon Priscilla Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 4):
Starting from this financial year, the Government has, by instalments, disbursed $1 billion to the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) to implement a five-year Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners (the Scheme), which provides enhanced financial assistance to elderly owner-occupiers to help them repair and maintain their properties, and improve safety condition of buildings. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
(a) it knows, since the introduction of the Scheme, the respective numbers of applications received and approved by HKHS, broken down by District Council district in which the applicants’ residences are located; the major reasons for the rejection of some applications; and the total amount of grants approved by HKHS; and
(b) it will expand the coverage of the Scheme to include non-elderly owner-occupiers; if it will, when it will be implemented; if not, of the reasons for that?
Regarding the two parts of the question, my replies are as follows:
(a) Since the launch of the Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners on 20 May 2008, up to end of February 2009, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) received a total of 3,930 applications, of which 2,533 were approved in principle, involving a sum of over $63.1 million. The remaining some 1,000 cases are being actively processed. The HKHS does not maintain statistical breakdowns of the applications concerned by district.
The main reasons for rejection of grant applications include that the asset or income of the applicants exceed the eligible limit, or the applicants are not the owner-occupiers, or the applicants actively withdraw their applications because of personal reasons.
(b) Elderly owner-occupiers with low income or no income at all often fail to properly repair and maintain their self-occupied premises in a timely manner due to lack of financial means, rendering their premises dilapidated. The Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners is tailor-made for such needy elderly owner-occupiers in accordance with the Government’s policy objective of caring for the elderly, assisting them to repair and maintain their self-occupied premises to ensure building safety through enhanced financial subsidy. We have no intention at this stage to extend the coverage of the Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners, which is tailor-made for elderly owner-occupiers, to other people.
Nevertheless, the Financial Secretary just announced on February 25 in the 2009-10 Budget that the Government, in collaboration with the HKHS and Urban Renewal Authority (URA), will launch a $1-billion “Operation Building Bright” (the Operation) in the coming two years to assist owners of about 1,000 old buildings to carry out repair works, and at the same time to create more job opportunities for the construction sector in the near future. There will not be asset or income means tests for the Operation. All owners in eligible buildings will be granted a subsidy of 80% of the repair costs, subject to a ceiling of $16,000, while elderly owner-occupiers will enjoy a full subsidy, subject to a ceiling of $40,000. The Government will shortly apply for funding from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council. Upon approval, we estimate the Operation could be launched in May 2009 at the earliest. We believe the Operation will further assist non-elderly owners of old buildings to carry out repair works.
In addition, the Buildings Department (BD), HKHS and URA have various other schemes to assist non-elderly owner-occupiers to carry out building repair works, including the Building Safety Loan Scheme administered by the BD, the Building Maintenance Incentive Scheme and the Home Renovation Loan Scheme administered by the HKHS, as well as the Building Rehabilitation Materials Incentive Scheme and the Building Rehabilitation Loan Scheme administered by the URA.
Ends/Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:31