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LCQ21: Short Term Tenancies at nominal rent

Following is a question by the Hon Wu Chi-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (April 9):

Question:

Under the existing policy, the Government may grant short term tenancies (STTs) for temporary use of vacant government land that has no intended use or is not required for development in the near future. Where an STT is applied for a non-profit-making purpose and has the "policy support" of the relevant policy bureau or department, the District Lands Office concerned under the Lands Department (LandsD) will grant the tenancy at nominal rent (STTs at nominal rent). In his Direct Investigation Report in March 2012 (the Report), The Ombudsman expressed concern about the implementation of the related monitoring system, including failure on the part of LandsD and the policy bureax or departments giving "policy support" to conduct regular site inspections of the leased land, to follow the procedures for tenancy renewal, and to take enforcement actions (including unauthorised building works on the sites and illegal sub-letting against tenancy breaches), etc. Regarding the granting of STTs at nominal rent, will the Government inform this Council:

(1)  of the following information on each of the government land sites leased on STTs at nominal rent (set out in the following table by the responsible district land office):

(i) location/address of the site;
(ii) site area;
(iii) tenant;
(iv) use of land put forward by the tenant in the first STT;
(v) the name of the policy bureau/department giving the "policy support" and the justification for that;
(vi) date on which the STT was first granted;
(vii) date on which the STT was renewed most recently;
(viii) whether LandsD had conducted inspections of the site and consulted the policy bureau/department giving the "policy support" prior to the most recent tenancy renewal; and
(ix) breach of lease by the tenant (if applicable);

District land office:
(i)
(ii)
(iii)
(iv)
(v)
(vi)
(vii)
(viii)
(ix)

(2)  whether LandsD has followed up on the five recommendations made by The Ombudsman in the Report; if it has, of the details; and

(3)  of the number of cases in each of the past five years in which the tenants of the sites mentioned in (1) were found to have breached the tenancy terms; whether the authorities terminated the tenancies concerned; if they did, set out the details of each case?

Reply:

President,

Generally, when an unleased or unallocated government site is not immediately required for long-term use or development, the Lands Department (LandsD) may consider putting the site to appropriate temporary use including allocating the site by way of Temporary Government Land Allocation to policy bureau or department or letting out the site on Short Term Tenancy (STT) for temporary use.  For individual government sites which have not been designated for long-term use or not allocated or let out for temporary use, LandsD may consider putting these sites to short-term greenery or community purposes through application. 
  
In general, STT is granted through open tender at full market rent.  That said, if the proposed use of the STT is for non-profit-making purposes and policy support from the relevant policy bureau is obtained, LandsD may consider directly granting the tenancy to the relevant organisation for non-profit-making uses.  Depending on if the relevant policy bureau's support is given, LandsD may consider granting the STT at nominal rent, otherwise full market rent will be charged.

My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1)  By ballpark estimation, at present there are approximately more than 600 effective STTs at nominal rent, the locations of which are throughout the territory.  The uses of the relevant sites include school playgrounds, venues for sport activities or training, religious use, drug addiction treatment centres, Rehabus parking spaces, etc.  The bureaux/departments (B/Ds) concerned include the Education Bureau, Home Affairs Bureau, Home Affairs Department, Labour and Welfare Bureau, Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau, etc.  As a large number of STTs are involved, considerable manpower and time will be required to collate the relevant information.  LandsD is not able to provide the relevant detailed statistics as requested in this part of the question.

(2)  LandsD has implemented the five recommendations made in the Ombudsman's report published in May 2012 and has reported so to the Ombudsman.  The details are as follows:

(i)  A memorandum has been issued to all Secretaries of the policy bureaux stating their roles and responsibilities regarding the renewal of STTs at nominal rent, including confirming the tenant's identity and land uses, and giving policy support.  In addition, during renewal, District Lands Offices (DLOs) will provide site inspection reports to the B/Ds concerned for their reference.

(ii)  A sample proforma has been issued to all DLOs for forwarding to the B/Ds concerned when handling applications for or renewals of STTs at nominal rent.  B/Ds are requested to clearly state in the proforma their decisions, reasons and background information for giving support as well as to confirm the information regarding, inter alia, the rank of officers giving the policy support. 

(iii)  Departmental guidelines have also been issued to all DLOs to implement the recommendation in the "supplementary guidelines" to inspect STT sites at nominal rent once every three years (additional inspections should be conducted in response to complaints, referrals or other factors of consideration), and the inspection reports are to be provided to the relevant B/Ds for reference when seeking their advice on whether they support the renewals of the relevant STTs at nominal rent.

(iv)  Each DLO runs a system of District Review Board meetings coordinated by the District Lands Officer to regularly review the work regarding STTs.  Through regular meetings and checking of the records of the computer system for STT management, both DLOs and LandsD Headquarters will monitor the dates of STT site inspections and follow up on situations where there is breach of tenancy terms by the tenants.

(v)  In view of the recommendations of the Ombudsman, guidelines have been issued to DLOs stipulating the procedures and time limits for processing applications for regularisation of breaches.

(3)  In 2012 and 2013, the DLOs inspected respectively 256 and 162 STT sites granted at nominal rent and found respectively 30 and 12 cases in breach of tenancy terms, including building additional structures without authorisation or occupying the adjoining government land.  Among the cases, seven have been rectified.  The DLOs are taking action against 11 cases with a view to rectifying the problem of breach of tenancy terms, and also considering the regularisation applications submitted by tenants in respect of the rest 24 cases.  No STT has been terminated due to the breach of tenancy terms so far.  As the computer system of the LandsD for STTs has been put into full operation since 2012, the Department does not have the statistics of cases of breach of tenancy terms before such year.


Ends/Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:30

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