Housing costs lead to fall in quality of life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong's homes were less affordable last year than at any time since an annual study began, with the average family having to spend more than 11 times their annual income to get on the housing ladder.

Chinese University's annual Hong Kong Quality of Life Index puts the housing affordability index at 11.4, the latest in a steady series of increases since the first study in 2002, when the score stood at 4.7.

The index is calculated by dividing the cost of an average 400 sq ft flat in an urban area by the salary of an average family.

Unaffordable housing contributed to a decline in the quality of life last year, giving it the third-worst score, behind 2009 and 2002. 'Hong Kong's general economy has improved. Our GDP has risen in the past few years, but it did not lead to improvements in the quality of life,' said Ng Sai-leung, director of the university's Centre for Quality of Life.

He urged the government to improve the situation by distributing resources more evenly.

'The government may think that everything's fine when the economy and property market are fine. But is it that simple?'

Ng expects the situation to get even worse this year as there are no signs of improvement in the two areas that put the biggest drag on last year's score - the cost of renting and buying a home.

Home prices have been soaring and, in March, surpassed their previous record level in 1997.

Government figures cited by the Chinese University researchers show an average 400 sq ft flat in an urban area would cost around HK$3 million, and it would take an average family with a monthly income of between HK$20,000 and HK$30,000 nearly 11-and-a-half years to earn enough money to purchase it.

Chong Tai-leung, an associate professor of economics at the university, said a housing affordability index of five would be healthy.

'Life is hard for those who don't own any properties. They are earning money but they couldn't spend as much on daily necessities [because of high rent],' he said.

The Quality of Life Index, designed by the university's faculty of social sciences, consists of 21 indicators grouped into three sectors.

Social indicators carry the heaviest weight as 10 of them are included, then there are seven economic indicators and four environmental indicators.

The indicators are calculated based on government figures and surveys conducted by the university.