Hous­ing re­lief should be ex­tended to all in need

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS -

The so-called “nano apart­ments”, with an av­er­age size of just 150 square feet and cost­ing less than HK$3 mil­lion each, are said to be sell­ing like hot­cakes.

Ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal mass cir­cu­la­tion daily news­pa­per, these “af­ford­able” homes are rapidly be­com­ing pop­u­lar with first-time homes buy­ers — mainly young fam­i­lies in the “sand­wich” class who can’t af­ford the medi­um­sized, HK$5-mil­lion flats and whose house­hold in­comes are “too high” for them to qual­ify for gov­ern­ment-built sub­si­dized hous­ing.

The “nano apart­ments”, which were put on the mar­ket by var­i­ous de­vel­op­ers ear­lier this year and once seen as an af­front to pub­lic sen­si­bil­i­ties, have now moved into the main­stream. In fact, stu­dios and small flats are now re­garded as a vi­able choice for young pro­fes­sion­als in other ma­jor cities, in­clud­ing New York and Lon­don, who pre­fer to live in the ur­ban ar­eas near where they work and play in­stead of in the less ex­pen­sive sub­urbs.

It’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore liv­ing in sub-divided flats — the curse of the ur­ban poor in Hong Kong — wins recog­ni­tion as a less un­bear­able al­ter­na­tive to be­ing held hostage for life by ex­or­bi­tant hous­ing prices. Let’s face it — homes in land-scarce Hong Kong have never been “af­ford­able”. It must be ac­cepted they’re be­com­ing even less af­ford­able be­cause, at least partly, of the ris­ing de­mand from overseas and main­land Chinese buy­ers.

Lat­est of­fi­cial fig­ures show that the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment has some suc­cess in rais­ing the sup­ply of res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties in the pri­vate sec­tor. But, the in­crease in the num­ber of com­pleted flats is too small to sat­isfy the huge de­mand. As a re­sult, prices have continued to es­ca­late.

The gov­ern­ment aims to shorten the wait­ing time for sub­si­diz­ing hous­ing to three years from four. But, the process is be­ing ham­pered by the dif­fi­cul­ties in find­ing suit­able land and the high cost of build­ing the in­fra­struc­ture needed to sus­tain a large-scale res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity in a re­mote lo­ca­tion.

Sec­re­tary for Trans­port and Hous­ing Chan Fan had ear­lier bro­ken the taboo by propos­ing to work with NGOs (non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions) in con­vert­ing old apart­ments into sub­di­vided flats for lease to needy fam­i­lies at “rea­son­able” rentals. That was sup­posed to be a stop­gap mea­sure to ease the hard­ship of low-in­come fam­i­lies on the long wait­ing list for sub­si­dized hous­ing.

It’s a sen­si­ble plan to ad­dress the hous­ing short­age prob­lem rather than a heart­less and crass pro­posal as de­scribed by some com­men­ta­tors and so­cial ac­tivists. Per­haps, the gov­ern­ment should con­sider ex­pand­ing it to cater for the needs of fam­i­lies in the sand­wich class.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Hong Kong’s sky­rock­et­ing homes prices have left many with no choice, but to put up with much smaller apart­ments af­ter fail­ing to ob­tain gov­ern­ment-sub­si­dized hous­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.