Hong Kong quality of life nears lows of 2003 with sentiments on housing affordability, freedom of speech down

Annual study reveals lowest score since Sars epidemic hit city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 10:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 11:22pm

Hong Kong’s overall quality of life has slumped to its lowest level since 2003, with sentiments on housing affordability, freedom of speech, the economy and noise pollution deteriorating the most, an annual local study found.

The quality of life score for last year dipped to 101.83 from 2014’s score of 102.95 in the Chinese University of Hong Kong study. The latest score was only slightly better than the study’s lowest recorded level, in 2003, when the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic hit the city.

The study examined 23 indices and drew upon data from the government and related institutions as well as responses from 1,000 Hongkongers. The indices included health, culture, leisure, the economy and the environment.

It found homes in the city had become the least affordable since the index was launched in 2003.

The major contributing factor ... is the [housing] affordability ratio
Terence Chong Tai-leung, CUHK

“The major contributing factor [to the fall in the economic sub-index] is the [housing] affordability ratio,” Chinese University associate professor of economics Terence Chong Tai-leung said. “It’s unlikely that housing prices will fall in the near future.”

Chong said the finding indicated the government’s price-cooling measures for the property market had not been effective. He added that extra stamp duty levies on second-home buyers were freezing that market instead of appealing to potential homeowners.

“Homeowners who want to sell their apartment have to be bound by the rules for another three years, so that they don’t have to pay the double stamp duty,” he said.

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On Wednesday, the government said a land site at Kai Tak was sold at HK$13,500 per square foot, or HK$8.84 billion in total. The sale broke a record for the area set two years ago and the per square foot price was higher than for new homes nearby.

Analysts said this raised the prospect of a situation akin to flour costing more than bread – a possibility that land costs could exceed home sale prices.

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Meanwhile, the survey found that sentiments on freedom of speech in the city had plummeted to their lowest level.

However, some indices improved. Life expectancy at birth, stress, and general life satisfaction each increased compared to the previous year.

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While the score for noise pollution worsened, that of air quality rose to its best ever.

Culture and leisure also hit new highs, the study found.

The composite index was developed to give policy makers and the public a reference to measure and keep track of the quality of life in Hong Kong in the 21st century. It was also hoped that the study would draw public attention to the issue of quality of life issues in the city.