• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 12:25pm
NewsHong Kong

'My flat is 30 sq ft and infested with bugs': Poor forced into dismal housing shows need for rent control

Low-income Hongkongers left vulnerable by complete lack of contracts or high rent increases by landlords, survey finds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 May, 2014, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 6:03pm

To Sham Shui Po resident Mr Yeung, the idea of a permanent home is like a distant dream. Rent increases have forced him to move three times in the past year.

The 56-year-old lives on government welfare of about HK$4,000 a month and budgets about half that for his housing. That tends to get him a 30 to 40 sq ft cubicle, windowless and infested with bedbugs.

“The so-called home is more like a store room where I put my belongings,” said Yeung, who once found a unit with fewer bedbugs but couldn’t afford the HK$2,400 rent.

“The bed bugs were so bad in the past two places that I often preferred to spend the night at McDonald’s or internet cafes.”

Yet even for such modest facilities, Yeung is frequently evicted as landlords increase the rent beyond his means, forcing him to search for a new home, sometimes with as little as a week’s notice.

Yeung is far from alone. While property prices have fallen by about 5 per cent from their peak in March last year, the average cost of renting keeps increasing.

The bed bugs were so bad in the past two places that I often preferred to spend the night at McDonald’s or internet cafes
Mr Yeung, resident

Recent surveys by pressure groups have found that for those on low incomes the problem is particularly acute – and is exacerbated by landlords who offer only short-term contracts, or fail to enter any contract whatsoever.

In a survey of about 300 low-income families living in rented, sub-divided or substandard apartments across the city, about 90 per cent hoped for rent control measures to be introduced.

Over 70 per cent of respondents were on a waiting list for public housing and more than 80 per cent had applied for help from the Community Care Fund.

The Alliance for Concerning Grassroots Housing Rights, one of the pressure groups that conducted the survey between December and mid-February, said the rental contracts of more than half of the respondents were for less than a year.

And some landlords had refused to enter any contractual agreement. Almost half of tenants said they were given less than a month’s notice to move out.

The lack of clear laws mean landlords are not sanctioned when they enter into agreements, without a contract, with tenants, the group said.

The groups want the government to make rental contracts compulsory. They also want rent control measures to keep increases in line with inflation.

The Housing and Transport Bureau is said to be studying the feasibility of introducing rental-control measures in Hong Kong, although no details are available and the alliance is demanding that the government make the details public.

Other groups in the alliance include social worker and lawmaker Cheung Kwok-che and the Alliance Concerning Comprehensive Social Security Assistance for low-income residents.

For his most recent eviction, Yeung received a week’s notice. Thanks to social workers he did not end up living on the streets. He has so far been unable to stay at any flat longer than a year. Once he stayed only a month.


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This article is now closed to comments

HK desperately needs rent controls. Even from pricing in restaurants is getting out of hand. The money you pay doesn't go into the cost of the cook or the food, it goes into rent. That's not value added. An economy that's based around rent seeking is guaranteed to suffer yet another crash.
@draconianfederation: It's not just the mainlanders who bought up the properties and not live in or rent out, a lot of Hong Kong speculators and wealthy elite did the same, either personally or via registered companies.
Its high time the Government woke up from hybernation to address the real issues faced by the majority of the community being from Education, Housing to high cost of living. The expensive rents are making lofe miserable for the middle class which is now paying rent of nearly 30-40% of the household income which is absurdly high. The landlords are not undertaking repairs and forcing the tenants to bear that burden too, thus they let out a substandard house and expect tenants to doot repair bills or live in misreable conditions like leakages, dangerous electric faults, poor living and hygienic environment, etc and all these are certainly against normal living standards and against human rights. High time to tax empty properties on deemed rental value and give tax redemptions to families living on rents and introduce rental curbs.
HK needs measures to stop mainlander wealthy elites buying up properties that they never live in AND never rent out, it's these ****s that have driven HK property prices skyhigh to a level hardly anyone in HK can match.
as soon as the market inevitably crashes the burnt greedy vile gambling owners will cry like the little b i t c h e s they are to the government just like the last time it happened
hope the government tells them too bad this time
what has this got to do with rent controls. If the HA did not have half its waiting list as singoe young people there are plenty of rent controlled flats to go around.
Time to slap on inheritance tax for people who own more than one property.
Sum ting wong?
Dai Muff
That's why you failed economics at school.
A major readjustment is looming.



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