Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong housing minister pushes for subdivided flats to be managed by NGOs under pilot scheme

Proposal from new housing minister Frank Chan Fan would see non-governmental organisations step in to manage pre-approved public homes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 7:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2017, 12:00pm

Hong Kong’s new housing minister is looking to roll out a pilot scheme through a crowdfunding drive within the year to enlist non-governmental organisations to operate government-approved subdivided rental flats.

While admitting the scheme was not a solution to the city’s housing crisis, Frank Chan Fan said demand for interim accommodation by public housing applicants could not be ignored.

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The long-running practice of dividing flats into smaller cubicles and renting them out to poor families has often raised concerns about fire hazards and inhumane living conditions, but the government is looking to utilise this form of housing to ease the crunch.

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At a media gathering yesterday, Chan said talks were underway between the government and NGOs to work out details of how these flats would be operated.

“I have had a few phone calls with the labour and welfare minister [Law Chi-kwong] and development minister [Michael Wong Wai-lun] to discuss the matter,” Chan said

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He revealed that there had been substantial support from landlords and property investors who were willing to lease subdivided flats at a fraction of the market price.

Architects and engineers, meanwhile, have provided renovation plans for the targeted flats, many of which would come from tenement blocks in urban areas.

He would not give away details such flat sizes and rental rates, only saying everything would comply with building rules.

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A crowdfunding exercise would be launched to allow public participation, Chan added.

He also denied the project would legitimise or encourage the practice of subdividing flats.

“The need [for subdivided units] is there ... the average waiting time for public rental housing applicants to be allocated a flat is 4.6 years, but many wait seven to nine [years] in the end because they do not like the initial offers,” he explained.

The Society for Community Organisation, which has already launched its own housing scheme for the underprivileged, said it was definitely good news as the previous administration had refused to consider such plans.

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But Legislative Council housing panel member Andrew Wan Siu-kin warned of practical problems such as fire safety and conflicts over cramped conditions.

Additional reporting by Naomi Ng