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Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong shared housing project set to provide relief for 1,000 needy families

Households expected to pay only a quarter of their monthly income for rent under plan run by NGOs and initiated by government

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 9:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 11:01am

An affordable shared housing project in Hong Kong is expected to supply 500 flats for 1,000 poor households over a three-year period, a social service provider has announced.

On Tuesday, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service said flats would be rented to households waiting for public housing and living in poor conditions, at only a quarter of their monthly family income.

The plan, called the Community Housing Movement, will involve flats shared by several families on two-year tenancies based on household sizes. The arrangement also takes into account a minimum living area of 7 square metres per person.

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Initiated by the government, the movement will be operated by the council with a HK$61.5 million budget, mostly from the Community Chest and partly from the government-run Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund.

“The living environments of the poor have become smaller and more expensive,” Bernard Chan, the council’s chairman, said.

“Living in unaffordable and undesirable conditions will cause people to be more pessimistic and isolated, and will lead to a vicious circle of poverty.

“Public housing is their only hope, but this takes time to build. During the long wait, short- and medium-term solutions have become increasingly important.”

As of June this year, 150,200 families and elderly people were waiting for public housing, with an average wait of 4.7 years, exceeding the targeted three years.

Living in unaffordable and undesirable conditions will cause people to be more pessimistic and isolated
Bernard Chan, Council of Social Service chairman

Another 127,600 non-elderly people on their own are in a separate, lower-priority queue. Some of them have been waiting for more than a decade.

In 2015, a government survey showed 41 per cent of some 88,800 households living in subdivided flats – often criticised as crowded, poorly ventilated and overpriced – were waiting for public housing.

Under the council’s plan, potential tenants are those who have been waiting for public housing – or other forms of long-term accommodation – for at least three years. The shared housing is to provide them with short-term relief while they wait.

The council said different NGOs could apply for the flats, proposing their targeted tenants and the support they can provide to these people. The council would then allocate flats to the groups with the most suitable proposals.

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Currently 26 landlords have provided 332 flats for the movement at rents lower than the market rate or at a nominal price. They include major developers such as Henderson Land and Chinachem Group, according to the council’s chief executive, Chua Hoi-wai.

The flats are in Kowloon City, Yau Tsim Mong, Wong Tai Sin, Central and Western, Southern and Eastern districts.

At least 34 flats in Mong Kok and Kowloon City would be available by the end of this year after renovation, Chua said, while the rest were expected to be available in the first half of next year.

Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation – a church-backed group helping the city’s poor – said the Community Housing Movement had solved the biggest issue facing NGOs running social projects for housing, which was funding.

He said the project should not only prioritise families with children, but also consider other groups such as homeless singles and new immigrants not yet qualified for public housing.

Meanwhile Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin accused the government of “passing the buck” to social service organisations instead of providing enough land for transitional housing.

He also urged the Urban Renewal Authority to redevelop residential buildings slated for demolition, for short-term housing.