Task force to tackle substandard accommodation

Task force on housing strategy makes needs of 70,000 in cramped, squalid spaces its priority

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 3:14am

The needs of more than 70,000 people living in poor and squalid conditions will be a priority for the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, which met for the first time yesterday

The committee, which will set priorities for addressing the housing needs of various groups, will prepare a preliminary report in the middle of next year for public consultation, said its chairman, Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung.

"We will appraise the housing needs of different sectors, with particular reference to youth, the elderly and first-time home purchasers," Cheung said.

The committee will also forecast demand for public and private housing, and review the effectiveness of existing measures.

Members were told yesterday that there are 64,900 people living in subdivided flats, cubicles, bedspaces or cocklofts, with another 6,300 people occupying industrial buildings illegally.

The committee agreed that these people have the most urgent housing needs.

Members also heard that in the second quarter of this year, the average rent-to-income ratio was 40.2 per cent, with the mortgage-to-income ratio 46.4 per cent.

In the subsidised housing sector, the number of applicants on the waiting list for public rental housing hit 199,000 in June, of whom 93,000 were non-elderly single people. Of these single people, 85 per cent live with their families and about 20,000 are students.

Committee member Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said the group would look at the waiting list figures carefully, especially the student and younger applicants. "They may not be part of the real demand. As they graduate or grow older, their income level may exceed the eligibility limit," he said.

Another member, Michael Choi Ngai-min, said he would suggest discussions on solving the housing problem of young families, many of whom are too well off for public rental housing yet unable to afford a private home. He would also call for higher development density in urban areas such as Kai Tak.

The committee was not originally meant to discuss land supply, but to focus only on assessing housing demand. But most members raised concerns that it would not be able to make meaningful forecasts without knowing the supply situation.

They also pointed out that any construction target recommended by the committee, without land supply figures, would create panic in the market.

Cheung agreed that the committee would be supplied with data on land development and supply, which is overseen by another task force chaired by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Separately, property consultancy DTZ yesterday forecast that home prices would rise by 5 per cent in the rest of the year, and by 5 to 8 per cent in the first half of next year.