Response of Hong Kong government to the housing problems

6 June 2016

Hong Kong is a densely populated metropolitan so there are a lot of housing problems especially for the urban poor. As the housing problems in Hong Kong such as the shortage of housing units are getting more acute, it is worth making an in-depth analysis for the sake of gaining a deeper insight of the responses of the government in housing problems.

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I will focus on different measures and actions taken by Hong Kong government in 21th Century. All data collected is based on library research and online research. One of the most popular suggestions is to resume the Home Ownership Scheme, which would place on the market low cost flats built by the Housing Society with the land costs defrayed. The scheme used to be quite popular among the so-called lower middle class who wanted their own property.

People now living in government-owned and managed low rental housing, or who are qualified and on the waiting list have preference in the allocation of low-cost housing under the Home Ownership Scheme. Although the Home Ownership Scheme ceased building new flats in 2004 in a bid to arrest the falling real estate market, there are still several thousand inventory units unsold. It is thought that by re-launching the scheme, most young people who now find private property out of reach will be able to build their new home in a place they can call their own.

As I have pointed time and again, our housing problem is a highly complicated issue requiring a systemic solution. Anything in the system is intertwined with everything else and there is simply no easy way out. Off-the-top solutions like resuming the Home Ownership Scheme can only lead to other bigger problems. It seems that only some government officials are aware of the pitfalls of simply re-launching the Home Ownership Scheme. Our politicians and pundits either never study the issue and its relevant statistics, or they never bother to do any research before uttering their comments and suggestions.

As I understand it, applying for government low rental housing is very popular among undergraduate students, because they are all low income adults with practically no assets and quite a sum of debt. Therefore they are invariably qualified. Statistics indicate that there are an increasing number of university graduates living in these estates. This clever move is their legal entitlement, and it solves their housing problems. On top of that, this is their ticket to the Home Ownership Scheme once it is resumed.

I am citing only university students and graduates as examples. The much larger number of young people who never manage to get a higher education are even more highly qualified. Now you can imagine the big headache our government would face once the Home Ownership Scheme was reactivated. Because of the long period of neglect, the housing problem is now too big to be tackled in a piecemeal fashion.

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