Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong government teams up with social enterprise to provide cheap housing for as many as 90 families

Renovated former textile factory in Sham Tseng will allow families to rent flats for at most three years

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 4:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 10:45pm

The government has teamed up with a social enterprise for the first time to launch a housing project aimed at providing affordable homes for grass-root families.

The “Sham Tseng Light Housing” project, the first of its kind, revitalised an abandoned 50-year-old textile factory in Sham Tseng near Tsuen Wan to provide a cheap home for as many as 90 families.

Coffin cubicles, caged homes and subdivisions … life inside Hong Kong’s grim low income housing

The five-storey building was leased by the government to Light Be, the social enterprise running the project, for six years at a token fee of HK$1.

Sham Tseng Light Housing, located on a slope near a cluster of villages, comprises 45 units.

Each flat is about 300 sq ft in size and comes with an individual kitchen, bathroom and balcony.

One family with a minimum of three people are allowed to live in each flat for three years at most.

“Many who are poor can’t envisage a better future for themselves. On the one hand the project can provide affordable housing for these people, but they also have to set empowerment goals for themselves and learn to build a more positive lifestyle,” Light Be chief executive Ricky Yu Wai-yip said.

All applicants, mostly grass-root families, are referred to the company through social workers who then work with the firm to review the bids on a case-by-case basis.

There are no clear qualifications or eligibility criteria, but Yu said that they look at income level, family size, aspirations as well as sense of responsibility.

Yu, who calls this concept “social realty”, aims to create a social impact by bringing about change in the property sector.

Since 2012, Light Be has operated around 40 flats across Hong Kong in a similar scheme to rent to more than 130 low-income families with single mothers.

Rent is tailored to what each family can afford, which Yu says is usually between HK$3,000 and HK$5,000 a month.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who officiated at the launch ceremony on Wednesday, said the project was the first of its kind.

“At a time when land, manpower and finance is limited, social policies need to keep up with the times. We need to have innovative thinking to solve society’s problems,” Lam said.

Lam added that the factory was handed over to Light Be last year without an open tender process.

“If this kind of cooperation between residents, businesses and the government can be called collusion, then I take full responsibility for it,” Lam joked, making reference to recent allegations that the government had colluded with businesses and rural landlords in a controversial housing project in Wang Chau in Yuen Long.

Around 15 families have already moved into the building. The aim is to have it fully occupied by the end of the year.

The project was completed without government funding. Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation donated HK$22 million for renovation, while contractors and architecture firms offered their services at below market rates.