JAKE'S VIEW
Jake's View
by

Why public rental housing has led to a spike in divorce rates

‘Why must Hong Kong taxpayers provide the housing to compensate for the irresponsible ways of these people?’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 10:58pm

Hong Kong will need one million flats in the next three decades to accommodate household growth, non-locals and displacement caused by redevelopment projects, according to a long-term land planning report issued by the government.

SCMP, November 22

Here’s a little something the bureaucrats don’t tell you when they dream of turning our entire town into a steaming heap of concrete – the number of people living in public rental housing is falling dramatically and has long done so.

I cannot give you the exact number but I estimate this decline at more than 600,000 people since 1990 despite the fact that the number of public rental units has risen by about 123,000 over the period.

It looks almost as if low rents make it easier for married couples in public housing to divorce on their first spat

There is a simple reason for it, shown in the first chart. The average household size in public rental housing has fallen dramatically from 4.4 people in 1990 to less than 2.8 at present.

Of course this has been a general demographic trend although the chart also tells you that it has been much less pronounced in private housing. One reason for it is a big increase in broken families, particularly those with a mainland spouse.

The figures show, for instance, that the percentage of divorced households in the lowest income quartile living in public rental housing has risen from 1.6 per cent in 1976 to 31.1 per cent in 2011. It is likely to be even higher now.

And out of 56,454 marriages in 2014 in Hong Kong, 20,698 were cross-border marriages of which 11,839 were remarriages for at least one partner. It is a safe bet that the majority of these people then went on the Housing Authority’s rent rolls or waiting list.

It looks almost as if low rents make it easier for married couples in public housing to divorce on their first spat. The wife then keeps the flat with or without a child of the marriage while the husband hunts for a cheap replacement bride across the border and installs her in another public flat.

It certainly seems a very common pattern and it poses an obvious question. Why must Hong Kong taxpayers provide the housing to compensate for the irresponsible ways of these people?

Something is upside down here. We talk of needing a million new flats because we don’t have enough and then we nod at a huge drop in the number of people living in the ones we have. Is the end game here a lonely one person per home?

And now to another chart to show you how our concrete addicted civil servants routinely get their population projections wrong in their compulsion to pour ever more.

That bottom blue line shows you our historic population count along with the latest projections for the future. The other lines show you what those projections were at intervals in the past. I particularly like that top one made in 2000. If you’re going to get it wildly too high why not really shoot for Mars?

Take note also that this latest study looks no further than three decades ahead. This would be just when the projections show that our population peaks and starts to come down. Oh well.

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