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Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong Housing Society provides 200 flats to help ease families’ long wait for public units

Applications for homes in Yue Kwong Chuen, a 56-year-old estate in Aberdeen, will be open to those who have waited for public housing for at least three years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 7:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 10:36pm

Some 200 vacant homes in an old housing estate set for redevelopment on Hong Kong Island will be temporarily rented out to poor families to help relieve their long wait for public flats, the Housing Society said on Monday.

Applications for the flats in Yue Kwong Chuen, a 56-year-old estate in Aberdeen, will be open to some 60,000 families of two to three members or elderly single people who have waited for public housing for at least three years.

Leases will be renewed every month until tenants get a public rental flat or for as long as five years, after which the estate will be redeveloped. The flats, ranging from 151 sq ft to 301 sq ft, will be rented out for between HK$561 (US$72) and HK$1,421 a month.

“We will renovate these flats first before renting them out,” Housing Society chief executive Wong Kit-loong said.

“We believe this will provide families waiting for public rental housing a better living environment at a reasonably low rent. We believe the families will be able to afford it.”

Wong said this will be a pilot project for the non-governmental, non-profit organisation, which is also the city’s second largest public housing provider. He said the society will consider providing temporary housing at other projects waiting to be redeveloped, if possible.

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As of the end of March, there were 270,000 applicants on the waiting list for public rental housing with an average waiting time for families or single elderly applicants reaching five years and one month. Many are forced to live in substandard dwellings at relatively high rents while they wait.

In her policy speech last year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged to promote social housing to provide temporary relief for these families.

Hong Kong is consistently ranked the world’s least affordable property market.

Wong said the project would be open for applications from next Monday for three weeks, and successful applicants would be selected through a lucky draw. Families could move in as soon as the fourth quarter this year, he said.

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The society had reserved about HK$10 million to renovate the flats, he added.

Wong, meanwhile, echoed earlier comments by society chairman Marco Wu Moon-hoi, who said Lam’s proposal last month to sell subsidised housing at almost half the market rate would put a financial strain on the organisation.

The society, which is self-financing, has to pay half of the full market value for land. Wu said that under such an arrangement, selling flats at half the market rate would leave the group suffering a deficit of up to HK$1 million per unit.

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Wong said the society would meet the government this week to discuss the issue and seek potential solutions. The government waiving the land fee or the society building more units with smaller discounts – aiming at those who earned too much to qualify for subsidised flats but too little to afford to buy private homes – could be considered, he said.