The DAB held a roundtable meeting today discussing possible short term solutions to the housing shortage. It was chaired by Wilson Or, DAB Spokesperson on Housing and we invited Chairman of the Federation of Public Housing Estates Mr. Man Yu-Ming, Deputy Executive Director of Our Hong Kong Foundation Mr. Stephen Wong, the Business Director of the HKCSS Mr. Anthony Wong, Associate Professor at the Department of Public Policy of the City University of Hong Kong and member of the Housing Authority Dr. Lau Kwok-Yu and member of the CPPCC Mr. Chan Kam-Lam as speakers and guests for the meeting.
The various guest speakers agreed on the existence of a housing shortage in Hong Kong and that the demand greatly exceeded supply. They gave many suggestions and ideas for short term solutions to alleviate the problem. Mr. Man Yu-Ming pointed out that Composite units could help alleviate the urgent housing shortage, but he emphasized that the HKSAR government should change its way of thinking and remove administrative obstacles from setting up composite housing units, or else it will be difficult for this proposal to be enacted.
Deputy Director General Stephen Wong said that the government should reform the current system of the Premium Payment Arrangement and allow owners to pay the premium a bit easier and therefore increase the total number of housing units. Also, he pointed out that the Housing Authority will temporarily slow down the new “well-off tenants” policies because this will force “well-off tenants” to “cut loose” the accounts of their children from the Housing unit in order that no family can have an income greater than the upper income limit to qualify for Public Housing. “Cutting loose” the children from being allowed to use these Public Housing units would simply repeat the process of urgent need for housing, worsen the current problem and make the issue of subdivided flats even more critical than before.
Business Director of the HKCSS Anthony Wong says that the government should think of ways to promote and implement rent control to protect tenants who are financially disadvantaged. In order to increase the housing supply in the short term, Mr. Wong believes that the government should look at the policies of foreign governments, such as turning Containers into temporary housing and set them up on land that is unsuitable for other development in the short term. He estimates that of the government takes his advice the Containers should be renovated and ready by September or October. At the same time, Mr. Wong hopes that the government will support the “Light Be” SvHK and allow conscientious homeowners to rent out spots and units to financially disadvantaged families. This form of social welfare has been proven successful in foreign countries, notably in Belgium.
Professor (Lau Kwok Yu) feels that the government’s goal of “three years on the Public Housing Waitlist” should become a long term goal instead and expressed disappointment that the supply of Public Housing units has not met with demand year on year. Instead, Professor Lau proposes that the government should promote a “HOS Purchase Rights Information” scheme that informs potential buyers who are already eligible to purchase HOS units. This will allow them to have ease of mind. In order to increase the number of public housing in the short term, Professor Lau feels that the government should set aside a portion of arable land earmarked for private housing into land marked for public housing development. This can be a short term solution to this need.
CPPCC member Chan Kam-Lam is worried that the controversy over land is very fierce right now. This leads to the government facing many barriers when they try to develop land for housing and not being able to alleviate the pressure for housing. Also, he firmly emphasized that subsidized housing, whether HOS or Public Housing, should only be utilized by families and individuals who qualify for financial assistance and should not be thrown into the free market.
Legislative Councilor Wilson Or expressed that the DAB has already recommended the “dual-landlord social enterprises” scheme to Chief Executive Ms. Carrie Lam. He hopes that the government can exempt the land premiums as an incentive to invite owners of land which had not yet been assessed for land premiums and who do not live in these units themselves to rent out their units at a reduced rate to social enterprises. Then the social enterprise can act as the “dual landlord” which can provide homes to financially disadvantaged families. The DAB hopes this scheme can use release idle land or housing units which had not yet been assessed for land premiums and therefore provide another housing option for financially disadvantaged families.
The DAB will organize the suggestions and proposals of our guests at this Roundtable meeting and we will prepare a unified set of proposals on the alleviation of the housing shortage to the government of the HKSAR.
Legislative Councilor Wilson Or 3543-0373 / 9546-6221