A committee studying Hong Kong’s long-term housing plans on Tuesday recommended introducing a licensing system for subdivided flats, dropping a proposal to impose rent controls, and setting a modest target for building more flats.
The committee proposed a building target of 470,000 flats over the next 10 years. Sixty per cent of these flats should be for public housing and the rest private. It also suggested speeding up construction of public housing flats and reforming a point system to make it easier for single young people to apply.
But Lee Wing-tat, a former legislator and now chairman of housing think-tank Land Watch, called the housing target modest, adding that he believed it and other measures would do little help to shorten the waiting time for public housing applicants.
The recommendations came as the Hong Kong government launched a three-month public consultation on the commitee's proposals to deal with the the city's long-term housing needs and the increasing number of people from low income groups that are forced by rising rents to live in subdivided flats.
A University of Hong Kong study commissioned by the government in May estimated that more than 170,000 people are forced to live these flats.
The licensing system proposed by the committee would only apply to units in residential buildings, those in industrial buildings should be banned, the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee suggested in a consultation document.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, who outlined the committee’s proposals at a press conference, said a licensing system would help monitor safety and the housing needs of low income groups.
Fire safety and overcrowding risks associated with subdivided flats have been a major concern for Hong Kong officials ever since a fire in a Mong Kok tenement building with numerous subdivided flats killed nine people in 2011.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday recommended that people not rent subdivided flats if possible, especially those in industrial buildings.