Hong Kong housing groups at loggerheads over open space plan for singles under 60

Authority says plan to build public rental flats for singles aged under 60 on open space at existing estates is feasible, but Society rejects proposal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 7:11am

The Housing Authority and the Housing Society disagree on the feasibility of a controversial proposal to build extra blocks of public rental flats on open space at estates to meet growing demand from single people under the age of 60.

The authority, which has assessed the plan, says it is feasible, but the society has rejected it.

The idea, raised last week as part of the city's long-term housing strategy, was floated to address the rising demand for homes from single people without lengthening the queue for family and elderly applicants.

But a spokesman for the society said it preferred to redevelop whole estates rather than adding blocks. "For these old estates, it will be more desirable to redevelop the whole estate to improve the living environment," he said.

On television yesterday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said: "We're taking this step to satisfy demand."

He said the Housing Authority, the biggest provider of public flats, had assessed the plan and found it feasible.

Long-term Housing Strategy Steering Committee members Eddie Hui Chi-man and Michael Choi Ngai-min conceded members were divided on the proposal as some were worried that it would making living conditions worse for residents by taking away their open space and recreational facilities.

"The government would have to ensure the addition would not violate any planning rules. It's only a conceptual idea," Hui said, adding redevelopment would improve the living environment as a whole but would take more than 10 years. Hui said some families could also move into the new blocks to avoid negatively labelling single residents.

"The views were divided. But we agreed that public views can be sought on it," said Choi, who expected the Housing Authority to take the lead.

Close to half the applicants in the queue for public flats are non-elderly. There were 115,600 of them in June, an increase of about 30 per cent from last year.

Family applicants are guaranteed to receive an offer of a public rental flat within three years - and elderly people within two - but single people under 60 are not given any pledge. Of 22,000 flats available for allocation each year, only 2,000 are reserved for single people under 60. They often have to wait for five years or even longer. According to the consultation paper on long-term housing strategy, now under a three-month public consultation, the government recommends adding a block or two of rental flats in existing public estates where the plot ratio - the permitted development density - has not reached its limit.

It suggested giving priority to those aged over 40. A merit of the proposal is that it would not significantly prolong the waiting time of family and elderly applicants. As of June, there were 17,800 single applicants aged 40 to 49 and 12,200 aged over 50.

The authority declined to reveal which public rental estates had not maximised their development density, but the Housing Society said six out of its 20 rental estates still had room for more development.

They are Ming Wah Dai Ha in Shau Kei Wan; Yue Kwong Chuen in Aberdeen; Healthy Village (phase three) in North Point; Chun Seen Mei Chuen in Kowloon City; Kwun Tong Garden Estate; and Lok Man Sun Chuen in To Kwa Wan.