• Wed
  • Oct 15, 2014
  • Updated: 8:57pm
NewsHong Kong

Dreams of home and marriage falling apart for Hongkongers

Hongkongers losing battle to have roof over head and a happy family, social development index shows, as divorces hit historic peak

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 4:10am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 May, 2014, 12:00am

A new survey paints a dismal picture of a worsening housing situation in Hong Kong.

The results of the biannual Hong Kong Council of Social Services social development index, released yesterday, also show a population under pressure from family disunity and rising divorce rates.

The figures give a snapshot of the city in 2012 and show that housing was at its least affordable since the survey began in 1999 - scoring minus 106 on the index.

The figures also showed the proportion of income a family spends on accommodation was at its the highest in a decade.

Demand for public housing rose sharply, while government supply failed to meet demand.

The number of divorces continued to rise to 21,125 cases - a historic peak - while "domestic incidents" - family disputes without criminal or violent elements - also rose.

"Having a roof over one's head and having good familial support are considered essential in a society and basic for human beings, but these two are exactly what we don't have," HKCSS chief executive Chua Hoi-wai said. She described housing and family problems as warning bells in the overall index, which rose 2 per cent.

"Hong Kong's development has always been positive, and continues to be. But both the family relations issue and housing cause concern," he said.

While divorce and domestic incidents rose, the heavily negative family solidarity sub-index as a whole was pulled up from minus 311 in the previous survey to minus 221 by a fall in domestic violence - involving actual violence, injury and criminality.

Other measured domains include education, civil society, political participation and environment quality.

The sharp increase in property prices - especially those of smaller-sized flats - had made it increasingly hard for the working class to afford private housing, the council said.

New applications for public housing increased by 76,000 in just two years, from 152,400 in 2011 to 228,400 in 2013 - more than the increase seen in the previous decade. The government received about 59,000 new applications from 2002 to 2011.

But building of public housing stalled at 13,114 flats in 2013, according to Housing Authority statistics compiled by the council.

There are also more single non-elderly people applying for public housing, most chased out of other options due to high rents - especially those in subdivided flats and cubicles "which are getting very expensive", Sze Lai-shan, of the Society for Community Organisation, said.

The average age of new non-elderly one-person applicants went from 37 in 2008, to 30 in 2013, according to Housing Authority statistics.

"The housing issue is the worst ever at the moment, and it is very worrisome," Chua said. "The government's rate of building public housing is so much slower than the need."

He said housing especially plagued the working class and low-income groups. Rents for small flats of 430 sq ft or less saw a steeper rise than those of big flats of 1,076 sq ft or more.

"With the Urban Renewal Authority redeveloping old tenant blocks of cheap housing into expensive flats, as well as redevelopment of other old buildings, the supply of cheap housing also declined," he said.

This affected rental prices and bit into low-income families' budgets, Chua added.

He said the government needed to speed up the building of public housing and consider some forms of rent control.

He suggested that the mandatory one-month removal notice landlords need to give tenants be lengthened to three months, which would allow tenants to find better housing options.


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This article is now closed to comments

The graph provided by Housing Authority showing the average waiting time as below 3 years is ridiculously misleading in that the waiting time for single non-elderly applicants has not been taken into account. Since the average waiting time for single non-elderly applicants is over 10 years and taking the total number of such applicants into account, the real average time for ALL applicants may well be over 7-8 years. Housing Authority is unwilling to give the GENUINE average waiting time for ALL applicants since they NEVER regard single non-elderly applicants as genuine applicants!
There was never a housing policy since Bowtie Tsang took over. It was just a real estate policy.
Easy solution: let half the population sleep on the streets. The Govt and tycoons won't care.
Welcome to Hong Kong, the corrupt crony capitalist centre of the world...
Thanks to Donald Bow Tie, Hooray Henry & co. from the tycoons, money launderers and other dirty characters who benefited.
Donald Tsang is the one who should be blamed for creating this problem! Hong Kong is dying.
In addition to Donald, some of our middle class Hong Kongers should be blamed as well since they complained when Mr. Tung announced the 85000 flats leading to sharp drop in property prices.
Most domestic violence/problems in HK originated from the average size of apartment for a given family. I can't recall the survey and I think it's around 450 sq ft for a family of 3-4 ? Even if the price of housing goes down, when a couple who is trapped in clostrophoic environment all hell break loose.
Whenever there is trouble in paradise, spouses would need plenty of space for a cool down period, such as his/her private room to spend a night and after the heat of the moment is gone, the next day would start afresh. When people are trapped within 4 walls, there is no valve to release the pressure and that's when the situation gets messy.
Here is the epic dilemma in HK. A healthy marriage is obtained by being able to have a roof top. Since most roof tops are unreachable because of rocket price, there will be no happy marriage. But if a couple does have enough to have their own roof, it would most likely be a cage. That would inevitably generate fictions for the lack of space and disasters follow. Couples would be unhappy. Many would end up in divorce if not living a life of misery. The vicious cycles continue. This is my scenario for over 90% of the HK population who can't afford larger apartments.
My conclusion. Housing affordability isn't the core issue of marriage unless if prices drop back of those in the mid 80's. It's space which we don't have and never will have. Therefore, raising a family and live happily ever after is a fairy tale.
Hong Kong government is useless; CY Leung is useless; the price of housing in Hong Kong needs to drop by 50% before it is affordable.
Housing affordability is driven by a number of factors ... The same measures that have been introduced to quell the housing market also keep people out of it. Banks are nervous and the very low loan to valuation ratios mean large deposits are needed. 2 other points - wages in Hk don't seem to have risen much and because if the currency peg we've had 5 years of negative real interest rates. I'm guessing but I'd say HKD 100 put in the bank in 2008 is worth about HKD85 today. If we are going to fix property prices wages, saving and the currency peg all need to be addressed. These are all big issues and I seriously doubt our current administration has the skills or courage to deal with them ...
I think Central Government will address this issue eventually, the economically challenged in Hong Kong will eventually move to Shenzhen or other parts of China.




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