Housing chief plans to provide ‘quality subdivided flats’
Hong Kong’s housing chief is keen to develop a plan to provide “quality subdivided flats” for those most in need — as a short-term remedy for the city’s housing woes.
This could be the first concrete housing policy implemented by the new government.
Speaking at a tea gathering with reporters, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan revealed that he has already started talks with welfare and charity groups, developers and property owners on the plan.
“I believe in never giving up any chance to do good things even if the impact might not be significant,” Chan said. “Hong Kong society should never be indifferent to how other people live.”
The plan is to offer funding to local non-government organizations to rent old buildings, especially those waiting to be rebuilt. These will then be revamped into subdivided units which are much more livable than many currently in use, explained Chan.
The flats will charge rents at half the market rate, he ventured. These will be offered to people on waiting lists for public rental housing as transitional accommodation, he explained.
Chan revealed that he has already received design drafts from local architects. He cannot offer a specific timetable or the number of units planned but Chan expects these projects to be open to the public sometime this year.
Currently, the average waiting time for general public housing applicants is 4.6 years, according to the Hong Kong Housing Authority. Chan expects these projects will at least cover this period.
He stressed that in the long term the government had to find more land for new housing.
Other relevant government departments will cooperate with the scheme, he added. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong and Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun have already joined discussions, Chan noted.
The housing secretary also said the government would encourage some NGOs to initiate crowdfunding — raising money from many people who contribute relatively small amounts, often via the internet.
Chan hopes this can lead to greater participation.
He also stressed that the projects must comply with the city’s Buildings Ordinance. They must also guarantee safety and sanitary standards.
Chan decided to act after visiting a local subdivided flat during his off-work hours. The flat, less than 600 square feet, was divided into 17 units, each charging HK$1,800 a month, he recalled.
A study of 378 metropolitan areas in nine countries in 2015 found that Hong Kong, Vancouver and Sydney were the most unaffordable housing markets among cities polled.
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