Hong Kong housing

About 16,000 Hong Kong flats with cheap rent could be made available by 2018 under Housing Society scheme

NGO’s director Daniel Lau says details are being discussed with the government

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 3:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 2:28am

About 16,000 subsidised flats could be made available in Hong Kong as soon as next year under a pilot scheme allowing owners to rent homes to needy families at below-market rates, the Housing Society revealed on Monday.

Daniel Lau King-shing, the NGO’s director for development and marketing, said it was studying the scheme and discussing the details with the government. Flat owners would receive a waiver on paying a land premium.

“We are working closely with the Transport and Housing Bureau,” Lau said. “We expect to roll out this scheme in the second half of 2018.”

Social housing was highlighted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her maiden policy address last Wednesday as one of the short-term community initiatives to increase housing supply.

“Even if our housing policy has broad community support, it takes time to identify land for increasing housing supply,” Lam said.

She added the government would “think out of the box” to increase the supply of transitional housing with the aim of alleviating hardships faced by those still in the queue for public housing – the average wait time is now 4.7 years – and those “inadequately housed”.

It takes time to identify land for increasing housing supply
Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Among the initiatives she said the government was considering or supporting: making use of idle government premises for rental-housing units – similar to social enterprise Light Be’s “Light Housing” project in Sham Tseng – the Council of Social Service’s recent affordable shared living project and helping the Housing Society implement its pilot scheme that allows owners to rent out flats for social housing.

Also on the list was exploring wholesale conversion of industrial buildings into transitional housing with waived land premiums and pre-fabricated homes on idle sites.

Lau estimated that under the society’s three main subsidised public housing estates, the “flats-for-sale scheme”, “sandwich class housing scheme” and most recent “subsidised sale flats scheme” altogether accounted for 20,000 units.

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“Of this figure, those that have not had land premium paid totals to about 16,000,” he said, adding that details such as how lease conditions would have to be amended still needed to be worked out.

Meanwhile, Lau said the Housing Society had already received proposals from five consultancy firms on a planned 18-month feasibility study on developing subsidised housing on the edges of the Tai Lam and Ma On Shan country parks.

The society would settle on which firm to choose by the end of January next year and expected the study to be conducted in two stages. Conservationists remain opposed to the idea, claiming there is no public consensus on the matter and that it could set a bad precedent.

Country parks cover 41 per cent of Hong Kong’s land area, while residential land use accounts for 7 per cent.