A home in the planning
Three or four decades ago, it was the norm for young Hongkongers to start saving up so they could buy a flat as soon as possible, then sell it later and move on to a bigger and better place as their income increased.
For most young people today that is just a dream. No matter how much money they save, it is unlikely to catch up with the soaring real estate prices. It's not surprising some young people are thinking ahead and making the only logical move: applying for public housing.
According to the Housing Department, there were about 22,000 applications for public housing by 18- to 29-year-olds this year as of May. The figure represented a 28 per cent increase from last year and the highest-ever number of applications by single people.
James Liu Chih-kit, a Year One student at Baptist University, plans to apply for public housing - the first step on the way to eventually owning a flat.
'My mother told me that real estate prices in Hong Kong are going up so quickly ... it is extra tough for young people to buy a flat,' he says, adding that he is applying as early as possible so as to reduce the waiting time.
A points system introduced in 2005 gives lower priority to younger applicants - no points are given to those aged 18, with three points for every year above 18.
Liu says public housing is his 'starting point'. He says: 'If I have public housing, it will be easier to apply for Home Ownership Scheme flats as opposed to non-public housing residents.
'If I were to save up for a flat, it would take forever. Pay rises will never catch up with the booming property market.'
Federation of Public Housing Estates chairman Wong Kwun agrees with Liu's plan to start off with public housing.
'It's like climbing a ladder,' Wong says. 'However, since the government stopped building Home Ownership Scheme flats in 2002, there may not be enough to go around.'
With the prices of private apartments going through the roof, many people are unwilling to move from their Home Ownership Scheme flats, he adds. 'The government needs to make plans to meet [the increasing] demand.'
Wong says the property boom is not a big surprise since the supply of both public and private flats has slowed over the past five years.
'High property prices and rents have encouraged more and more people to apply for public housing,' he says. 'Single young people have the lowest priority in getting a flat but this will not discourage them to apply at all.
'They can always put their name in and withdraw later if they don't need it, but applying early is sure to be beneficial to them as the waiting time is shortened.'