The Hong Kong government is determined to step up the fight against abuse of public housing, and the Permanent Secretary for Housing and Director of Housing, Ms Lo Suk-pui, said earlier that it intends to refer to the Good Citizen Award to provide incentives for members of the public to report and combat abuse of public housing. She explained in a radio program today (30th) that providing incentives for the public to report and crack down on abuse of public housing means that it should be handled carefully, and there are opinions that the whistleblowing system may affect the happiness of residents, and the authorities should be careful to balance.

The authorities are studying the provision of guidelines so that whistleblowers can provide relevant information in accordance with the guidelines, and when the information provided leads to the successful repossession of public housing estate, the report will be considered successful and false reporting will be avoided.

Regarding the dispatch of officers to monitor online platforms such as Carousell and Airbnb and to launch investigations on the rental of public rental housing, Lo described it as "a foot high and a foot high", knowing that some public housing tenants immediately retracted and continued to rent in a cryptic way, but the Housing Department still has other methods such as releasing snakes to continue the investigation.

The Housing Authority (HA) has stepped up its efforts to combat the abuse of public rental housing and introduced a series of measures to enhance the "Well-off Tenants Policy" and the "Household Extension Policy", which require households under the age of 10 years to declare their residence status and whether they hold residential properties in Hong Kong every two years. (File photo)

The Housing Department (HD) has earlier launched investigations through online platforms such as Carousell and Airbnb and successfully identified public housing abuse. The Permanent Secretary for Housing and the Director of Housing, Ms Lo Suk-pui, said in a radio programme today that she did not want to disclose the success figures so as not to reveal more details of law enforcement, but reiterated that there were successful cases on both platforms. She added that she understood that there would be a situation where "the road is one foot high and the devil is one foot high", but there are still other ways for the Housing Department to continue the investigation, such as releasing snakes.

In addition, Lo also pointed out that whistleblowing is an effective way to combat abuse of public housing, and the authorities intend to refer to the Police's Charity Award to provide incentives for members of the public to make reports. She added that there are voices that the whistleblowing culture should not be encouraged, "if we work hard to increase people's happiness, you will ask people to report", but public housing is also an important resource for the community, so the introduction of relevant awards will not be greatly rewarded. She said that whistleblowers must be named and provide sufficient information to help the successful resumption of public housing, "we do not encourage you to hide in the shadows", and the relevant scheme will be launched with guidelines to help the public understand what information to provide.

Permanent Secretary for Housing and Director of Housing Ms Susan Lo. (File photo/Photo by Xia Jialang)

In addition, the Housing Authority began last month to require households who have not lived in the house for 10 years to declare their residence status every two years, as well as whether they hold residential properties in Hong Kong, involving 2,8 public housing households in the first phase, and today (8th) is the deadline for the first batch of submissions. Luo Shupei said that as of Monday (30th), nearly 27,7 applications have been recovered, with a recovery rate of 5%, and more forms are expected to be withdrawn by today's deadline.

She said that if the declaration could not be returned within two months, there would be good reason to believe that the flat was unoccupied, and if the declaration was refused, the DH could cancel the PRH contract immediately. She also pointed out that if the PRH tenants concerned can submit objective evidence of facts and stay in hospitals or on business trips during such periods, the department will also deal with them in a humane manner and contact the relevant tenants by telephone, door-to-door and other means to understand the situation.

As for when and how to deal with it, Lo Shupui pointed out that she will not tell the public what the department will do if they do not submit the return, and since the form can still be submitted today, public housing tenants should seize the time, "Don't be more than everyone hopes, it doesn't matter, you don't pay it today, we will take it slowly." She said that the Housing Department will resume 2000,3000 PRHs this year, which is close to the level of the whole of the previous year, and it is estimated that the number of PRHs to be resumed this year may be close to <>,<>.

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