Reclaim more land in Hong Kong so people can live with dignity

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 5:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 10:23pm

In his recent column (“Selling public housing to tenants will fix homes shortage”, October 31), Jake van der Kamp states that converting public housing tenants to owners will make the housing shortage disappear.

He also noted that there has been an increase of 150,000 in public rental units since 1990, yet the total number of public tenants had dropped by 600,000. Surely this is a by-product of the Housing Authority’s “wealthy tenant” policy.

He then called the reduction in average household size in public rental flats, from 4.4 persons per unit in 1990 to only 2.8 persons at the end of 2016, a public embarrassment. Does he really consider 2.8 people in a public rental unit with an average size of 400 sq ft too much living space for Hong Kong people?

At the Business and Professionals Federation, we support the sale of public housing to tenants – but this is only one of many measures needed to address the housing problem, which will take many years to resolve.

The proposed sale will increase liquidity and ownership, which in turn will promote a sense of belonging. Parallel to this, some retirees may then move to the mainland, where living costs are lower, with capital gains from subsequent sales, and thereby allow more in the queue to be housed in public flats.

The real embarrassment for Hong Kong is not that the statistics have fallen to 2.8 persons per public flat but that, in a rich city like Hong Kong, the average public housing tenant shares only 142 sq ft of living space. ​

Singaporeans enjoy at least 60 per cent more housing space per person than people in our city.

The Hong Kong government and all who care about how our people are housed, want to improve this situation.

If we want to house our people with more dignity and narrow this gap, we must reclaim more land and build many more and bigger flats. It is as simple as that.

Nelson Wong, vice-chairman, Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong