Secretary for Development's speaks on Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners

Following is the transcript (English portion) of the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, speaking to the media on "Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners" today (March 3):

Reporter: Can you talk about the scheme? Who is eligible? When will it be implemented?

Secretary for Development: This scheme is to assist elderly owners who face financial difficulties to do their building safety and building maintenance works. The intention of the scheme is not only to help the elders, but also to help the elders' participation in buildings maintenance to enhance building safety and building maintenance in Hong Kong as this is an area of very major concern for the community at large, so under the scheme, we are introducing a grant of up to $40,000 for each eligible elderly family. They can apply for the grant of up to $40,000 to do all sorts of building maintenance and safety works, including making a contribution to the owners' corporation to facilitate the maintenance of the common parts of the building. Because of the objectives of the scheme, we have deliberately set the thresholds at the very generous level. For an elderly couple, excluding the value of their self-owned property, if they have total asset not exceeding half a million dollars, they would be eligible to apply. This is specially designed to benefit as many elders as possible.

Reporter: Hong Kong Housing Authority has an interest-free loan scheme. Does it mean people can now apply for the Housing Society scheme to bypass the ......? How are you going to promote the scheme?

Secretary for Development: It's not a matter of bypassing, but the objective of this new scheme to help elderly owners is an additional form of assistance, so we are not replacing any of the existing schemes provided by either the Buildings Department in terms of low interest or no interest loans to elderly owners, we are also not replacing the scheme run by the Housing Society, as you have mentioned, and also by the Urban Renewal Authority. So you can imagine that, in case we have an elderly owner who has more works to do exceeding $40,000, then he could, if eligible, first of all to get the $40,000 under the government scheme. Then if eligible, he could also go to the Housing Society for another $10,000 grant. On top of that, this elderly owner could either come to the Buildings Department or the Housing Society to apply for a low interest loan. It is a sort of trying to put together as many forms of assistance as possible for our elderly owners, because we understand individual circumstances differs. As it is quite difficult to design a scheme that could fit everybody. As far as the promotion is concerned, you would realise that it is only four days since the announcement by the Financial Secretary in the Budget speech, so we have taken an initiative today to come and meet the elderly groups to tell them about the scheme, and also hopefully through the mass media to disseminate the information of our scheme. Later this month, we will go to the Legislative Council to discuss the scheme, so I am sure there will be more media coverage. Once the scheme is approved, hopefully in early May, then we will do extensive publicity, sending out information pamphlets, not only to elderly owners, but also to the owners' corporations, and also to elderly centres like Lady McLehose Service Centre, which is serving a lot of elders. The reason why we specially want to bring in the owners' corporation, is because we gathered in the past that because of the existence of fears on the part of the elderly owners, some of the owners' corporations find it difficult to arrange building maintenance for the building, as some of the owners within the building will resist participating. So now they have the grant of $40,000. We hope that more elderly owners would come forward to help the owners' corporation to participate in the building maintenance scheme.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, March 3, 2008
Issued at HKT 19:54