LCQ11: Compensation and rehousing for tenants affected by Urban Renewal Authority projects

Following is a question by the Hon Albert Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 4):


Under the existing policy, the tenants affected by the redevelopment projects of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) are entitled to ex-gratia payments or ex-gratia allowances, and eligible domestic tenants are entitled to rehousing units offered by the Hong Kong Housing Authority or the Hong Kong Housing Society. However, I have learnt that some owners had terminated the tenancies of their tenants immediately after the announcement of the redevelopment projects, resulting in the affected tenants not being able to receive any compensation or rehousing offer. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:

(a) the measures implemented by URA to safeguard the right to compensation or rehousing of those tenants who are affected by its redevelopment projects and who have been occupying the premises concerned before the relevant Freezing Survey commences, and whether such measures include streamlining the procedures to confirm as early as possible the affected tenants' eligibility for compensation or rehousing, and narrowing the difference in amount between the compensation for owner-occupiers and that for non-owner-occupiers, etc.;

(b) in respect of each URA's redevelopment project in the past 10 years, the number of affected tenants at the time when the relevant Freezing Survey was conducted; how the number compares with that of the tenants who ultimately received ex-gratia compensation or rehousing; and the reasons for the discrepancy between the two numbers; and

(c) focusing on the recent situation where some tenants were evicted by the property owners concerned after the announcement of a URA's redevelopment project in Sham Shui Po, how URA assists the tenants who are affected by the project and who have been occupying the premises concerned before the relevant Freezing Survey commenced, so that they will be compensated or rehoused?



(a) Under the prevailing policy of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), a domestic property owner affected by URA redevelopment projects will receive the market value of their properties valued on a vacant possession basis. Besides, any owner-occupier of domestic property will receive a further ex-gratia "Home Purchase Allowance" (HPA). If the property is vacant or let out, the owner will receive a "Supplementary Allowance" (SA). The amount of HPA is higher than that of SA.

The URA has been using the occupation status of the property as at the date of the freezing survey to determine whether the owner is entitled to a HPA or a SA. The change in the occupation status of the property after the freezing survey will not affect the amount of allowance payable to the owner. Hence, even if the owner evicts the tenants from the property between the time of the freezing survey and the time of the completion of property acquisition by the URA and becomes owner-occupier, he/she will not receive a higher allowance.

For the past redevelopment projects of the URA, the majority of the tenants registered at the time of the freezing surveys resided in the properties until completion of acquisition by the URA. Hence, there was no need for the URA to adopt any targeted measures to provide early rehousing and early ex-gratia payment for the tenants.

(b) Since its establishment in 2001, the URA has completed site assembly for 14 of its redevelopment projects. Based on the available statistical records of four of these projects, there were 470 tenant households registered at the freezing surveys. At the completion of site assembly for these four projects, 407 of these registered tenant households were still residing at the properties. There was a discrepancy of 63 tenant households.

As the tenant households had already left the properties before the URA made acquisition, the URA did not have confirmed information on the reasons for their departure. Based on the information provided by the other households and the Social Service Teams, some tenant households left after having been allocated public housing; some left after the expiry of their tenancies; and some made their own arrangements for other residence.

(c) With regard to the recent case of a URA redevelopment project in Sham Shui Po where the tenant households have been asked to leave early after the freezing survey, since the URA has yet to be authorised to proceed with the project and to make acquisition offers, the URA is not in a position to intervene in the landlord and tenant matters in the project area. Notwithstanding, the URA Board had, after learning about the matter, decided at their Board meeting on October 19 to provide assistance to the tenant households through the following measures announced on November 3 -

* Doubling the amount of Relocation Assistance (RA): Upon the recommendation of the Social Service Team and the approval of the URA, the tenant households who have difficulty will be able to receive the RA as soon as they have moved out from the properties; and

* Lowering the approval threshold so that more tenants can benefit: For example, under the improved measures, the Hong Kong residency requirement for the tenant households will be relaxed.

In addition, the Urban Renewal Social Service Team will, depending on the need of the individual tenant households who have been asked to leave early, continue to assist them in their application for compassionate rehousing through the Social Welfare Department so as to tackle their long term housing need.

The URA will consider revising prevailing policies as the need arises and as the circumstances of the individual project require with a view to enhancing protection of the tenant households.

Ends/Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Issued at HKT 16:37