Benefits from fine programme
THE public housing programme is one of Hong Kong's finest achievements. In the 40 years since this large scale programme began, following the Shekkipmei fire on Christmas Day in 1953, almost three million people, about half of our population, have become beneficiaries from the programme.
The programme was begun to meet the needs not just of the 53,000 people made homeless by the Shekkipmei fire, but also to provide reasonable and affordable accommodation to hundreds of thousands of people with low incomes who were living in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.
Providing decent homes for the homeless and the poorly housed remains the first priority of the housing programme.
As generations have grown up in the security that public housing has provided, new needs and expectations have arisen.
To respond to this, the Housing Department and Housing Authority have steadily been improving the design and quality of public rental housing; have introduced the Home Ownership Scheme; and in each new estate, have improved the facilities to provide a better community environment.
As the challenges of managing and maintaining Hong Kong's largest and most rapidly growing stock of property have increased, there has been a danger of losing sight of the fundamental objective of the public housing programme, affordable homes for those in need.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the programme, I am very pleased to see that the Hong Kong Housing Authority is reappraising its priorities and reaffirming its commitment to give priority to those in need.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to thank the Housing Authority, all those who have been involved in implementing the housing programme, and all those community groups and individual Hong Kong people who have done so much to make this programme such a success and have done so much to improve the quality of life for so many people in Hong Kong.