Needy Hong Kong families to benefit from HK$35.7 million prefabricated housing project
Low-income families who have been waiting for public housing for at least three years can live in the 90 units for two years and pay no more than a quarter of their salaries in rent
A government task force has approved HK$35.7 million (US$4.5 million) in funding for a transitional grass-roots housing project in Sham Shui Po involving 90 stackable, prefabricated units to help low-income families waiting for public flats.
The Community Care Fund Task Force has signed off on the amount, but it is subject to approval by the Commission on Poverty, a government policy advisory body. If put in place, the plan, to be implemented by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service – an umbrella group of welfare organisations – seeks to develop a stretch along Nam Cheong Street.
The project caters to low-income families who have been waiting for public housing for at least three years. They are expected to pay no more than a quarter of their monthly salaries in rent, and can live there for two years.
A total of HK$24.8 million will be used to buy assembly units, measuring between 143 and 287 sq ft with separate bathrooms and kitchens, and HK$10.9 million will go to construction costs.
Speaking after a meeting on Friday, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong, who is also the task force’s chairman, said the cost of the project was reasonable because the prefabricated components could be reused and the risk of overspending was low.
“Although it is not really new in Hong Kong, for government bureaus and departments, it is the first time they are participating in the process,” Law said.
He added that if the pilot programme was successful, the government would not rule out implementing such projects itself.
“Some people suggested giving more money [to the needy], but that does not increase the housing supply and could result in market rental rates being affected,” Law said.
The council has been preparing for the project for some time, with private company Henderson Land Development, which owns the Nam Cheong Street site with the intention to build private luxury flats, announcing earlier this year it had offered it to the council on a two-year lease for a token fee of HK$1.
Chua Hoi-wai, the council’s chief executive, said permission was being sought from the Buildings Department. If successful, the units would be completed by the middle of next year at the earliest, he added.
While Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin supported the plan to build the transitional housing, he said drawing from the Community Care Fund was unreasonable.
Wan said the fund was originally established to make up for the inadequacies of existing government policies and help low-income residents who fell through the gaps in some measures, rather than build temporary housing.
With the fund being limited, he said he was concerned there would be situations in which low-income residents competed for resources with each other.
Instead, Wan suggested that the government establish a fund specifically for transitional housing in which eligible social enterprises or social welfare organisations could apply for such projects.
The government can apply to the Legislative Council for injections into the fund every year or when necessary.