Hong Kong housing

Race does not play role in deciding who gets Hong Kong public housing, official says

Stanley Wong, Housing Authority’s chief of subsidised housing, defends allocation practices after complaints ethnic minority families face longer waits than local families

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 9:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 10:45am

A Housing Authority official defended allocation practices on Tuesday, denying race was a factor in the long waits for public housing faced by Hong Kong’s ethnic families.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, the chairman of the authority’s Subsidised Housing Committee, stressed the long wait times – the latest figures show families are waiting more than five years for public housing regardless of race – were connected to family size.

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“Waiting time is longer for big families, which explains why there is a feeling ethnic minorities wait longer,” Wong said, adding ethnic minority families are often larger than local families.

Government figures show the average size of a household in Hong Kong was 2.8 people, while the 2016 census indicated that in ethnic minority households the average was 2.6.

Wong was responding to concerns from Hussain Shoaib, a representative from the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers – Kowloon, who said people from the city’s ethnic minority groups feel they are being made to wait longer than locals for public housing.

Shoaib also said they have a hard time understanding letters from the authority, as they are mostly in English and Chinese.

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Wong promised the authority would translate its letters and documents into six more languages in the future.

He acknowledged the supply of larger public housing units was particularly low as Hongkongers have formed smaller families in recent years.

Wong, who also chairs the government’s land supply task force, said the authority sometimes allocated two flats to a large family, regardless of their race.

Speaking after the meeting, Shoaib said this arrangement can put pressure on a family with only two adults, as they will be required to spend time in two separate flats to attend to the children.

He also said families living in two flats pay more utilities, and urged the authority consider the needs of ethnic minority families in future public housing estates.

Meanwhile, the Society for Community Organisation urged the Housing Authority, the city’s main provider of public sector housing, to review the priority system to allocate public housing, saying non-elderly single people were at an unfair disadvantage.

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A representative of the group, Gordan Chik, said some singles, who were close to becoming elderly, were living in poor housing conditions.

Chik urged the authority to give such applicants greater priority, as well as considering more additional factors for high-priority applicants, such as income and health.

Wong said he understood Chik’s concerns, but added it was difficult to include all factors in the priority system.