Hong Kong housing

Study shows how Hong Kong’s poorest are spending more than half their income on rent even in the most unlivable conditions

Concern group calls for subsidies to ease burden on grassroots families and individuals waiting for housing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 7:14pm

A concern group has urged the government to increase financial assistance for people forced to wait years for public housing amid new survey results highlighting the pressures facing the city’s poorest.

Concerning Grassroots Housing Alliance’s latest study showed a third of 380 grassroots families and individuals surveyed – and living in inadequate conditions, such as subdivided flats, coffin homes and rooftop shacks – were spending more than half their monthly income on rent.

With rent prices outpacing wage growth year-on-year, 11.7 per cent to 4.3 per cent respectively, the group warned that two thirds of those polled in the survey would be spending more than half their monthly income on rent by 2021.

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Tommy Ho Chi-chung, the group’s community organiser, said if wage levels continued to lag behind rent prices, the situation would only snowball.

“This trend is very alarming. I can’t imagine how grassroots families would be able to afford a decent living if this continues,” Ho said.

The concern group cited Hong Kong’s mortgage application guidelines in comparison to the pressures faced by those living in even the most inadequate of living conditions.

Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s guidelines dictate that mortgage applications should only be approved if the applicant’s monthly payments do not exceed half of their earnings.

Call for Hong Kong government to help provide temporary homes to those in wait for public housing

Meanwhile, Ho said grassroots families were forced to continue to survive under “immense pressure”, while waiting to be approved for public housing – a process that has now stretched out to 4.5 years.

The group called on the government to introduce rental income and rental subsidies for public housing applicants who have been waiting for more than three years to get into appropriate accommodation.

A man surnamed Chan, 39, who lives illegally in an industrial building, said sky-high rents in the private sector had forced him to move into the cheap building after a work-related injury left him jobless for two years.

“I don’t even dare to eat a proper meal,” Chan, who pays HK$1,800 for a 100 sq ft flat, told the Post.

“Sometimes I just eat a loaf of bread so I don’t starve.”