The Housing Authority’s claim that applicants waiting for public housing would be allocated a property “within three years” is misleading, says the Office of the Ombudsman in its latest reports.

The watchdog also urged the government to increase transparency by releasing more information on public rental housing.

The Ombudsman held a press conference on Thursday to announce the results of their report which looked into the waiting time for public rental housing. They also released relevant data, and published information about the management of permitted burial grounds in the New Territories.

office of the ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman. Photo: GovHK.

The Office of The Ombudsman said that the investigation was initiated after they received various complaints from applicants who were not allocated public rental housing after waiting for more than three years.

‘Misleading’ claim
It has been the government’s target to keep the waiting time at a duration of three years, and the concept of “housing allocation within three years” has gradually come to be expected by the public, the report said.

The report found the Housing Authority’s claim that general applicants could expect to be allocated a flat in three years was misleading. This was because the average figure of a “three-year wait” was determined after lumping five types of general applications together; applicants in four of those categories received priority treatment, but those categorised under “Ordinary Families” did not.

ombudsman website
The report available on the Ombudsman website.

In reality, the average waiting time for ordinary families was much longer than the overall average waiting time and, as of last June, the waiting time exceeds three years for around half of the applicants. Around 30 percent wait for a period of longer than four years, and the longest wait was over seven years, Now TV reported.

“We consider the [Housing Department’s] calculation to be too generalised and the [average waiting] time provided for general applicants does not reflect the real situation. In particular, such information can easily mislead applicants from Ordinary Families, and may attract complaints and criticisms [that they are] creating a false image of ‘housing allocation within three years’,” the Office of the Ombudsman said.

ma tau wai photo
Some tightly clustered public housing at Oi Man Estate, Ho Man Tin. Photo: kevinho86.

Waiting times
The Ombudsman also slammed the Housing Authority for their unwillingness to release more information on public rental housing waiting times, and about second and third flat offers.

The Housing Department said that its analysis report is only intended for internal discussion purposes and that the data may not necessarily help citizens make informed decisions, as they are reflective of the past and not the future.

“Even if the data merely reflects the trend of the year past and is not indicative of the future, it does not mean that they are of no reference value. As a matter of fact, many plans are made with past trends as important reference. Besides, an open and accountable government would never cite ‘the information may not be useful to the public’ as a reason for refusing to release information,” the Ombudsman responded.

The full reports are available on the Office of the Ombusman’s website.

Karen cheung hong kong

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.