Hong Kong housing

Mixed feelings among Hong Kong residents to changes to city’s subsidised housing policy

Subsidised housing cheaper in the city is set to become cheaper for some under new measures introduced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 11:52pm

As Hong Kong’s chief executive announced a raft of new housing initiatives on Friday, local people longing for a more affordable flat have had mixed reactions. Some are happy because they can ask for a smaller housing loan from their parents. But for those whose incomes still exceed the limits set for subsidised housing schemes, they will continue to live in cramped conditions with their families or face high rental costs in the time to come.

Kenneth Lau, 30, public relations and marketing officer

June is a “very exciting” month for Kenneth Lau. His girlfriend said “yes” to his marriage proposal on June 9 and the chief executive on Friday rolled out the sweeping changes to the pricing mechanism for Hong Kong’s subsidised houses.

“I was overjoyed when I read the media reports, “ the 30-year-old said.

As housing prices continue to soar, saving money for a down payment has always been a burden for Lau. The publicist plans to borrow money from his parents first and pay back the debt later. He explained a cheaper price for Home Ownership Scheme flats would also mean a lighter debt burden for him.

“It’s like Sisyphus repeatedly rolling a huge stone up a hill. If there is a heavier one and lighter one, of course, I’d prefer to roll a lighter stone,” he said, referring to a Greek myth in which Sisyphus was punished to endlessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain but the stone would fall back when nearing the top.

But the policy change does not soothe his worries completely amid a subsidised housing shortage.

“It’s similar to [winning] the Mark Six lottery. It’s great that the value of the top prize has been raised. But if the chance of winning is still 0.0001 per cent, then [the benefit] is just a drop in the bucket,” he said.

Lau added it was “heartbreaking” for him to ask his retired parents to lend him money, but he had no choice.

Dai Yu-ying, 53, school worker

Single mother Dai Yu-ying said her son told her he would get married only after they bought their own flat. The pair live in a public rental flat in Tsuen Wan which is about 200 square feet.

“This has been a huge problem for us. We will need more space after he gets married. They will also have children. The kids will need a lot of space,” she said.

The 53-year-old has had huge housing struggles for a long time. She waited more than 10 years to get a public rental flat two years ago. She said she would not see doctor when she caught a minor flu because she wanted to save money, adding that she would not have any overseas holidays for the rest of her life.

“I am happy to hear the news. I wanted to buy a flat for years and I will definitely go for it this time,” she said.

Top advisers approve proposals for vacancy tax and more affordable flats to help ease Hong Kong’s housing crisis

Hugo Leung, 29, occupational therapist 

Buying a flat, however, will still remain to be an unreachable goal for Hugo Leung. The occupational therapist lives with his parents and his elder brother in a unit spanning 380 square feet. He wanted to move out and live on his own about two years ago, yearning for more personal space.

“No matter how hard I work, how hard I try to save up money and invest money, I won’t be able to chase up high property prices,” Leung said.

Earning about HK$45,000 a month, Leung is not eligible to apply for flats under both the Home Ownership Scheme or the Starter Homes Scheme. But he is still not able to buy a private home in the red-hot housing market.

Leung invests about 30 per cent of his income every month and gives another 15 per cent to his family. The 29-year-old said he was still unsure about how much he has to save to pay a down payment because homes prices have been rocketing. He added he could only resort to renting a flat if he had to move out, adding that he would just try to save money as best as he could.