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Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong housing lottery sees six families vie for each rental flat in Yue Kwong Chuen development

More than 1,300 families apply for 200 rental flats for poor families that have already spent three years in the queue for public housing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 9:05pm

The cost of renting an 860 sq ft flat in Wan Chai has almost tripled in a just “a few years” for Season Au Yeung, from HK$6,000 to HK$17,000 a month.

While he and his wife now live with his parents and sister, he thinks it would be better if his family lives on their own and the couple downgrades to a smaller flat.

On Friday, Au Yeung joined the pool of 1,340 households vying for one of 200 rental flats on Hong Kong Island for poor families that have already spent three years in the queue for public housing.

Ranging from 151 sq ft to 301 sq ft, the flats will cost between HK$561 (US$72) and HK$1,421 a month.

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“We won’t even dream of having enough money to own a flat in Hong Kong, but we’re applying because our landlord keeps increasing the rent and it’s getting too stressful for us,” Au Yeung, who did not want to say how long he has been in his current flat, said.

He added that he intends for his parents and sister to live in the rental flat.

The flats are in Yue Kwong Chuen in Aberdeen, which was completed in 1962 to house civil servants and those in the nearby Aberdeen fishing village. It has five towers with 1,144 flats.

The Housing Society, Hong Kong’s second largest public housing provider, earmarked the estate for redevelopment from 2023, with 2,000 new flats to be built by 2033 to 2034.

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When some flats became empty in recent years, it decided not to put them up for rent.

In June, it announced that it would spend HK$10 million to renovate the empty flats and offer them to families in the queue until they secure a rental flat or till redevelopment is slated to begin.

It said 60,000 families or elderly single people would be eligible to apply.

The pilot scheme comes as the Hong Kong government struggles to find land to build enough cheap, public housing.

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.

More than 200,000 people in Hong Kong are forced to live in subdivided flats, often in cramped, squalid living conditions, while they wait.

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There are now six applicants competing for each flat in Yue Kwong Chuen, which means “fishing lights” in Chinese.

But it is not the most competitive project. Last year, the Housing Society saw a record 88,000 families applying for 620 subsidised homes, meaning that 141 applicants were vying for each flat.

A housewife who only wanted to give her surname as Ng, said she submitted an application for her married son and grandchild, who live with her, her husband and their three daughters in a 400 sq ft public rental flat. Her son’s wife lives in mainland China.

“It’s simply too cramped for all of us to live together. I’ve been sleeping with my grandchild and husband on a four-foot long bed for the past five years,” Ng said after handing in the application at the Housing Society’s office on Friday.

The non-profit organisation said most submissions received were from two- to three-person families, while 26 applicants were single, elderly persons.

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Some towers in Yue Kwong Chuen have no lifts and the estate is located on top of a hill with few buses serving the area. The nearest MTR station, Wong Chuk Hang, is a 30-minute walk away.

But Ng said it didn’t matter.

“Young people can just take the stairs. At this point, anything is better than living in a subdivided flat,” she said.