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Hong Kong housing

Temporary flat scheme success like ‘winning the lottery’, Hong Kong family says of new housing

  • More than 1,300 applications for some 200 places in first development to take part in Housing Society programme
  • Those who were eligible had waited at least three years to participate
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 10:59pm

A family of three described getting a temporary flat in Hong Kong as “winning the lottery” as they prepare to move in next month under a new scheme launched by the Housing Society.

Yue Kwong Chuen, a 56-year-old rental estate in Aberdeen, became the first development under the society’s “T-Home” scheme to take in families now queuing for public rental housing.

Announced in July, the scheme drew more than 1,300 applications for some 200 places.

About 60,000 families of two to three members or elderly single people were eligible to apply for a flat. They had waited at least three years and took part in a scheme designed to provide temporary relief to those facing housing difficulties.

The average waiting time for a family to get a public rental flat in Hong Kong stands at five years and three months – the longest in 18 years. Officials are struggling to identify land to build more affordable homes.

On Monday, the society arranged for two families to sign their new leases and obtain their keys.

The two families – the Bais and Huis – had been queuing for public rental housing for four and five years respectively. They will move into their new flats on November 1.

The Bais, a family of three, were allocated a 300 sq ft flat on the first floor of the block Shun Fung Lau.

Monthly rent will cost the family HK$1,421 (US$181).

Mrs Bai, a full-time housewife, said her family had been living in a 70 sq ft subdivided flat in nearby Tin Wan, with rent setting them back HK$2,000 per month.

“We were very happy and excited,” she recalled of learning about their successful application. “It was like winning the lottery.”

The flat has one room, a small kitchen, a toilet and a balcony.

Bai said her fast-growing six-year-old son would benefit from the extra space.

“We can now give him his own desk and bed. He will have more space to move about.”

The family will also be able to have its own kitchen and toilet, unlike in their subdivided flat.

To celebrate, Bai said the family would invite some friends over for a meal.

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Mrs Hui, also a housewife, was accompanied by her nephew on Monday to receive her new flat, which is likewise located on the first floor of Shun Fung Lau.

She will be living in a 240 sq ft unit with her husband, a driver, paying a monthly rate of HK$1,145.

Although half the size of where she lives now, the new flat will be about seven times cheaper to rent, Hui said.

This will help her save money for when the family has to move out.

“I don’t do any shopping. I don’t go out,” Hui said. “There isn’t a lot of money for entertainment.”

Hui noted she would finally have space to “cook a proper meal”, as she was limited to using a mobile gas stove in her flat inside a tenement building, also in Aberdeen.

Both families said transport would not be a problem, despite the nearest MTR station being 30 minutes away by foot. Bus services to urban areas are located in Shek Pai Wan.

The society’s assistant director, Sanford Poon Yuen-fong, said it would consider rolling out the scheme at other housing estates.

He noted its Kwun Tong Garden Estate was quite old as well.

“In the future, when there are old housing estates in need of rebuilding … we will consider them,” Poon said.

The society spent close to HK$20 million to renovate the 217 flats, he added. Ceilings and walls as well as facilities for water and electricity were fixed up.

Under the scheme, tenants would have to move out of the flats within two months should they be allocated public housing, Poon said.

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The scheme at Yue Kwong Chuen will run for five years, according to the society, and the estate is scheduled for rebuilding after that.

The flats range from 151 sq ft to 301 sq ft, with monthly rent between HK$561 and HK$1,421.

Of the 217 successful applications, 136 were two-person households, 73 comprised three people, and eight were solo applicants.

The last batch of tenants would move into the estate in May next year, the society said.