• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 8:37am
Leung Chun-ying
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong's subdivided flat dwellers pay more rent for smaller, substandard space

Study details cramped conditions that workers and even univesity-educated tenants endure

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 12:16pm

Residents of subdivided flats are squeezed into an average living space of just 68 square feet - half the space that people living in public housing have - and per square foot they pay a premium of almost 28 per cent to typical market rents, a study has found.

The figures from the government-commissioned research come a day after the housing minister said around 170,000 Hongkongers are living in such small, substandard homes.

The study also found that almost 9 per cent of sampled residents of subdivided flats were not low-wage workers but in fact had completed tertiary education.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said yesterday the problem of subdivided flats was "serious".

"We have to continue our work in increasing housing and land supply," he said.

Subdivided homes, found in old buildings in high-density urban areas, are mostly inhabited by low-income workers and new immigrants because of their typically convenient locations and low rents. But poor workmanship means fire hazards are rife, alongside water leaks and excess loads on building structures.

The study, conducted by Policy 21, a company set up by University of Hong Kong academics, was handed to the government's Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee on Monday.

Researchers, having visited 10 per cent of the city's 18,600 housing blocks that are older than 25 years, estimated there were 66,900 subdivided homes housing 171,300 people. They estimated that half of these homes lacked their own kitchens, bathrooms or water supplies.

According to people familiar with the study, the living space per head in subdivided homes is about half the average 138 sq ft per person in public housing and less than half than the overall Hong Kong average of about 150 sq ft, as calculated by the university's department of urban planning and design. Singapore's average is 300 sq ft per person and Shanghai's is 180 sq ft .

The study found rents for such flats were low in nominal terms - typically just under HK$3,800 a month - but that residents pay an average of HK$29.10 per sq ft, much higher than the average HK$22.80 per sq ft in private housing in Kowloon reported by the Rating and Valuation Department in March.

Half of the residents interviewed for the study had applied for public housing, and one-third of them were new immigrants.

Lee Wing-tat, a former lawmaker now running concern group Land Watch, said the difficulty of finding land for new public housing meant the problem of subdivided flats would continue.

"The government cannot just say, 'We'll step up construction and ask those people to wait for public housing'," he said. "For those living in the worst conditions, some rental subsidies may be necessary to help them relocate to better places."



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I always find it funny when lawmakers point out the obvious and yet are unwilling or unable to offer anything in terms of solutions. If subdivided flats are such an atrocity, then make them illegal. Any fool can criticize and any fool can complain. How about actually doing something about it?
CY Leung should continue commission more private survey to unearth what are hidden or contrived facts about Hong Kong. No effective policy can be had without true data and information. Hong Kong needs new policies to set Hong Kong away from a property culture. By the way, should the head of the Census Department be asked to resign? I am amazed that she actually defended her staffs when SCMP was reported in questioning of the competency of the department.
If the government offers subsidies to people to live in private houses all you will see is more expensive rentals. Do you really think there are even 10,000 private houses available for them to move into?
Also about making subsidised houses illegal. Where would these people live then? They live there because that is what is available.
Build more houses? Where? It is not like HK is empty. I guess they should just assigning 2 families to each government house. May not actually be a bad short term solution. Set aside 100 government homes and assign 2 families to each. They stay there for 2 years until new ones are available.
Maybe the gvernment can offer cage style homes of 100 sq feet for people to live in. At least better than now.
A lot more HK people should start realizing that there is just not enough space to go around in this little dinky place.......should really start exploring their options such as living in nearby cities in the Guangdong province.
Mainland China in the wake of further urbanization – bringing country folks to settle in cities must doubly cautious that don’t let housing policy or lack of one to become like Hong Kong. Emulating Hong Kong land policies in the 80s by mainland government is unfortunate. But, any lesson still not learned now from Hong Kong will be irresponsible.
This is a shame of HK, being one of the richest cities in the world.
Thank you SCMP for the most telling pictures today as well yesterday in capturing the slum condition of living space that utterly disturbing. The space after laying out the essentials – bed, cooking spot and cupboards, what remains just hardly can accommodate a person’s stretched arms. The photographer needed not to overhang much to bring the entire ‘pin-head’ room in focus. No one in Hong Kong – locals (property developers particularly) and expats (a sizable number I am sure) should escape from seeing these substandard living condition without some reflection. What have we done or not done that subdivided flats still are a form of accommodation. Such way of living even existed in the 50s. No progress at all. It may seem an irony that a property culture as what Hong Kong so immerses in that no room and space can be adequately developed for all. The cage-living for singles persists despite frequent outcries from public locally and abroad. Why is Hong Kong so oblivious to social injustice? What and who master-minded such assault of our heart and mind?
I don't think that just increasing housing and land supply will be enough.
Actually the issue is there is still a serious work to be done on the property prices.
The current situation is that prices are pull to the top which means that small flats, whether for sell or rent, are considerably more expensive for those with lower income.
People tend to focus on the fact that they are living in a shoe box, but lot more are living in eggs box.
Please read my comment in today's editorial.


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