JAKE'S VIEW
Jake's View
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Is public housing becoming student housing?

The Housing Authority is doing a pretty good job of turning out public housing flats for the pressure it’s under

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 November, 2015, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 November, 2015, 4:43pm

Families and elderly single people face an average wait of about three years and seven months to get their hands on a pubic flat, putting the Housing Authority’s target of an average of three years further out of reach.

City, October 28

I don’t know quite how we got that three years and seven months when the HA also says that elderly single people waited on average two years but let’s look at the overall numbers.

The average wait has risen to 3.6 months from 3.4 months last year and some 285,300 are in the queue, up from 248,100 last year.

That comes to a 5.8 per cent rise in the waiting time for a 15 per cent rise in the number of applicants. Seems to me from these numbers that the HA is doing a pretty good job of turning out public housing flats for the pressure it’s under. I wonder if any such agency anywhere in the world could overcome a 15 per cent demand growth rate.

Fledglings fly from the nest when they can. The emphasis is on whether they can

But let’s also look a little more closely at this demand, for which we have to go back two years to a big Long Term Housing Strategy Consultation, the study on which our housing chief, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, bases his programme of a big boost in public housing. There have been no such studies since then.

“The average age of the newly registered non-elderly one person applicants gradually declined from 37 in 2008 to 30 in 2012. This was mainly due to the increasing proportion of those aged below 30, which rose from 34 per cent to 64 per cent in the period.”

What’s all this about public housing? We are actually talking about something more like student housing, it seems.

“45 per cent of the non-elderly one-person applicants lived in private permanent housing while 23 per cent lived in subsidised sale flats and 29 per cent in PRH (public rental housing). Around 2 per cent of them lived in temporary housing, quarters, institutions, etc.”

No street sleepers or squatter hut dwellers here. Some 98 per cent of these people already live in formal permanent housing. They just want something better. Most people do. Less than four years is not a long time to wait for it, particularly if under 30 years old and likely applying while still a student.

“34 per cent of the non-elderly one-person applicants had post-secondary education or above. The corresponding proportion for those aged 30 steadily increased from 40 per cent in 2010 to 55 per cent in 2012.”

As I say, student housing and, if no longer student, then university graduate, one of the more privileged classes of society. Why is the HA putting such people on its waiting list when it should be taking them off it?

“23 per cent of the non-elderly one-person applicants were students at the time of registration. The corresponding percentage was 43 per cent for those aged below 30.”

Yup. Said it already.

For non-elderly one-person applicants, ‘want to live alone’ remained as the main reason for applying for PRH. In 2012, 68 per cent of the non-elderly one-person applicants quoted this reason. The corresponding percentage for those aged below 30 was 76 per cent.”

Fledglings fly from the nest when they can. The emphasis is on whether they can. If they cannot then they must stay in the nest a little longer. High rents make leaving the nest more difficult these days but I don’t see why this obligates us to offer university graduates rents at less than HK$1,300 a month, which is the HA average.

“Around 30 per cent of the non-elderly one-person applicants quoted ‘small living area of present accommodation’ as the reason for applying for PRH.”

Strange times indeed when public housing is seen as offering more space but this neatly summarises where the debate stands. It’s not about dire need or homelessness but about convenience.

I was glad, however, to see that our latest report on the waiting list figures also mentions that “younger single applicants are subject to a limited quota of homes, allocated according to a points system. No details of the average waiting time were revealed.”

Well, whatever it is, make it longer, Professor Cheung, and don’t trouble yourself about the length of that waiting list for the others. There is no way in the present circumstances of demand that you could have brought it down.

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