Housing officials offer no solution to HK's subdivided flats problem

Lawmakers say subdivided flats are a disgrace to Hong Kong, but officials cannot keep up with demand for more public rental homes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 May, 2013, 4:33am

Housing officials could offer no solution to the problem of subdivided flats, which lawmakers yesterday said were a disgrace to the city.

At a meeting of the Legislative Council's subcommittee on long-term housing strategy, lawmakers said they were appalled by the severity of the problem revealed when government-commissioned research was made public earlier this week.

The study by the University of Hong Kong estimated that more than 171,000 people were living in subdivided flats in old buildings, usually with fire or overcrowding risks, with an average living space of 68 sq ft per person.

While high rents were blamed, research found that the average rental per square foot was HK$29.1 - that compares with an average HK$22.80 per sq ft for a small private flat in Kowloon, according to figures from the Rating and Valuation Department in March.

"This really is a disgrace for Hong Kong. One square foot in sub-divided flats is even more expensive than luxury flats. These are people who can't get public housing and they have no choice but to live there," said the Labour Party's Lee Cheuk-yan.

Half of the 66,900 households in subdivided flats are on the waiting list for public housing, and 13.7 per cent live on welfare.

Leung Yiu-chung, of the Neighbourhood and Workers Service Centre, criticised a crackdown on illegal structures by the Buildings Department which has seen people forced out of their subdivided flats and given no help in finding somewhere else to live.

Director of Housing Duncan Pescod said the purpose of the study was to assess housing demand. "The solution is to provide more housing," he added. "We are trying our very best to provide more public rental housing and Home Ownership Scheme flats."

He dismissed the building of "interim housing" as that would take away land for permanent public housing.

The Housing Authority has raised the annual production target of public rental housing from 15,000 to 20,000 from 2018 onwards.

The average waiting time for families to get public housing is now 2.7 years. The authority has promised they will not have to wait more than three years but it is growing more doubtful as the list grows longer.

As of March, there were 228,400 applicants on the waiting list, of which 111,500 are non-elderly singles who are not part of the three-year pledge. Some 60,300 of them are aged below 30.