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NewsHong Kong

More than 170,000 living in subdivided flats in Hong Kong

Study commissioned by government to give first indication of scale of problem doubles previous estimate - and actual total may be even higher

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 8:45am

More than 171,000 people are living in substandard, subdivided flats in Hong Kong, it was claimed yesterday.

The estimate is more than double the total of 64,900 given by the Census and Statistics Department last October.

And the figure is thought to be even higher as researchers could not examine illegal homes in industrial buildings, said the secretary for transport and housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung.

See more photographs of Hong Kong's cramped subdivided flats 

The study was commissioned by the government to give a first indication of the scale of the problem.

Cheung said after a meeting of the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee yesterday: "I can't say whether it's a large or small number, or whether there's an increase, because this is the first time we've done it. But as we draw up the housing strategy, we'll take the data into account."

The committee will make its recommendations by August.

The study results coincided with another government release, which said home prices are the least affordable since 1999.

The mortgage-to-income ratio of a 45 square metre home, for a family earning the median income, surged from 52 per cent in the preceding quarter to 56 per cent in the first quarter this year.

And in a further indication of the city's housing woes, it was revealed the number of applicants on the waiting list for public rental accommodation climbed to a 20-year high of 228,400 by the end of March.

The administration has identified the problem of subdivided flats as a priority. Low-income families and new immigrants often choose to dwell in such units, conveniently located in old buildings in the urban centre. But poor workmanship means they create fire risks and a danger of leaks and structural overload.

The estimate of 171,300 is 2.6 times the figure given by the Census and Statistics Department. The study was carried out by Policy 21, a company set up by academics from the University of Hong Kong.

Researchers visited 10 per cent of the city's 18,600 blocks older than 25 years. Blocks of residential or mixed uses were sampled from each of the 18 districts.

They found flats were divided into 3.6 sub-units on average and projected there were 66,900 subdivided homes. Of these, 30,600 lacked their own kitchen, bathroom or water supply.

Committee member Dr Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu said the government should focus on the 30,600 units in the worst condition. He said: "They should see if people living there are in need of social welfare and relocation, and whether the buildings have a safety problem."

Sze Lai-shan, of the Society for Community Organisation, said the government should reinstate rent control - which Cheung has repeatedly ruled out - and give a rent subsidy to such residents.



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boondelyan, agreed. Although... in your example,you are optimistically assuming that a household will spend 100% of its income on housing, and that mortgage rates will stay as low as they are. In reality, households are more likely to spend between 1/3 and 1/2 of their income on housing, bringing the number of years to 40 or even 50, not even taking into account interest costs. So yes, it is ridiculous.
jve: It is my understanding that spending anything over 15 to 20% of income for shelter is quite excessive, much less the 40 to 50% levels that are prevalent in HK.
With respect to the average price per SF versus median income measure you are quoting above, 28% is exceptionally high considering this is more than double that of the 13% in 2002. Given that my own analysis shows that property prices around 2002 to 2004 were consistent with healthy long term appreciation, then the long term goal for this measure of shelter affordability would be 13% give or take. So average price per SF would have to drop about 55% for housing to become affordable.
If unit square area price is more for a house of same in area, the house of a lesser unit cost will cost less, absolutely. That is what house to house will yield. No??? I don't think I am pulling your leg? Neither I like you to do it to me.
Looks there is no social progress. Divided flats were the norm in the 50s and 60s when mainland refugees flooded Hong Kong. It is talking nonsense when putting divided flat dwellers in the same breadth with unaffordable housing. It makes more sense if we talk about rent control. No and stop government rent subsidies. It is a clever way to create wealth by transferring money from the general public into the pocket of greedy landlords. Would it be a kind of silent collusion between government and gouging landlords – though no discuss but the end effect is just the same.
Rent control? This means people with second homes just wont rent them out. If right now I could rent out a house for $20,000 a month and all of a sudden the government said I just can charge $10,000 a month I would get out of the business of renting out the house.
Landlords need to pay management fees, agent fees, loose money when not rented and also must pay tax on the money that comes in.
If you can't get a good return then may as well just put money in funds.
There is actually nothing wrong with the housing situation in Hong Kong
Taking a rentable flat out of the rental market because it brings in less profit sure can happen but for the practical minded Hong Kongers they will not do. When government insists on rent control, landlords will just live with less profit. The expanses for upkeep and cost shouldn’t be a part of objection because no one including the government would set up a rent control results in landlords’ living in destitute.
What an immaterial, childish and empty-headed non-argument agains rent control.




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