Most families wait over four years for public housing, says Oxfam

Oxfam finds that most families have been on the list for over four years - without a single offer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 5:49am

The government's promise of a maximum three-year wait for public housing is a myth, according to a study by Oxfam Hong Kong released yesterday.

Instead, the majority of families on the list have been waiting for four years without getting a single housing offer, Oxfam's report found. Conducted from August to October, the study reveals that over 70 per cent of the 501 "n-nothing" households interviewed have been waiting for 4.4 years on average, with no offers.

The so-called n-nothings are low-income people who receive no government assistance, not even Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA).

Oxfam director general Stephen Fisher said: "Housing is a structural cause of poverty [in Hong Kong] due to some of our land policies." One long-term solution is to increase the supply of public housing, which could effectively reduce poverty, he said.

Oxfam urged the government to study the option of providing a rental subsidy for tenants who do not receive CSSA benefits and have been on the public housing waiting list for over three years.

It should also look into building more temporary social housing to ease accommodation problems among the poor, Oxfam said.

One woman in the survey, who appeared at Oxfam's press conference yesterday, said that more than half of her family's income goes into rent. They pay HK$6,800 a month for a 200-sq-ft subdivided flat in Sai Wan. Her husband earns about HK$12,000 a month for the family of five.

The family, which is not on welfare, has been waiting more than four years for public housing.

"As a mother, I feel so bad for the children," said the woman, who has two daughters in primary school and a five-year-old son.

On Monday the Social Welfare Department announced a 7.8 per cent increase in the maximum rental allowance under the CSSA scheme.

Also on Monday, at a Commission on Poverty meeting, the government proposed including welfare benefits - such as public housing, education and medical subsidies - as income when calculating the poverty line. That would move a large number of poor people above the line without increasing their income, critics of the measure pointed out.