Public housing waiting time now 4.1 years as observers say government has failed to deliver
The Housing Authority says ‘the increase in supply cannot catch up with the substantial increase in demand’; obstacles include bureaucracy and public opposition
Families need to wait an average of four years to get into public housing, despite government efforts to build more homes and shorten waiting time to three years, according to latest figures released by the Housing Authority.
The data comes at a time when the increasing backlog of applications for public housing, coupled with the struggle to find land, pose a major challenge for the government.
According to the figures, the average wait for family applicants increased from 3.9 years in March to 4.1 by the end of June. Single senior citizens face an average wait of 2.4 years.
The wait of 4.1 years broke a 13-year streak of waiting time under four years. The longest waiting time was 6.5 years in 2002 when Tung Chee-hwa was chief executive.
The total number of applications, including families, single and elderly people went up by 3,800 to 288,300 in the three months. The number of general applicants – families and elderly people – accounted for a little over half of all applicants, while the number of single applicants was about 135,000.
Waiting time, measured by the time taken between registration for public housing and the first flat being offered, was based on figures of those housed in the past year.
“This situation calls for our attention ... the increase in supply cannot catch up with the substantial increase in demand in the short term,” an authority spokesman said.
The government had already admitted that the actual production of public housing flats will fall short of the 10-year target of providing 280,000 flats, according to their long term housing strategy annual report last year.
The government had identified sites to build 255,000 flats by 2026, but this is still 25,000 units short of the target. And it is also based on the assumption that all of the land can be delivered on time for construction to begin.
Challenges faced by authorities include trying to get approval from different agencies to rezone and reclaim land, with public opposition also an obstacle.
In one case, 900 units of a new public housing estate at the site of the former Kwai Chung Police Married Quarters – hampered by public opposition to rezoning plans – is taking nearly a decade to complete since the plan was first put forward in 2008.
Man Yu-ming, vice-chairman of the Federation of Public Housing Estates said: “Time and time again the government has failed to uphold its promise, instead [the wait] has become longer.”
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had promised in 2012 to build more public housing units and also to shorten the waiting time for families to three years.
Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the subsidised housing committee under the Housing Authority, said the increase in waiting time was expected.
“We do not rule out the possibility that the situation would worsen as the housing supply cannot completely keep up with the target goal set by the long term housing strategy committee,” Wong added.
“It is hard for us to predict how many years it would actually take for us to reach our target goal [of housing supply].”
Professor Chau Kwong-wing, an expert in housing policy at the University of Hong Kong, said the waiting list does not accurately reflect all who are eligible.
A number of applications may already be invalid as university graduates who applied several years ago are no longer eligible since their salaries had increased over time, exceeding the limit from when they first applied for the housing, Chau said.
The Housing Authority spokesman said a review of the current applicants would be available latest by early November.