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Hong Kong housing

More young, single and highly educated Hongkongers on waiting list for public housing, official figures show

  • Rising proportion of applicants under 30 have tertiary education
  • More people applying for public rental housing from age of 18 as ‘a kind of insurance’, lawmaker Wilson Or says
PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 10:16am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 10:57am

Nearly half the single young people on the waiting list for public housing in Hong Kong have a tertiary degree, new official figures show.

This marks a steep increase from 37 per cent in 2014 to 47 per cent as of the end of March this year, according to a government paper sent to the Housing Authority on Thursday.

Out of the 272,300 people in line for public rental housing at the end of March, fewer than half – 43 per cent – were single non-elderly applicants, according to the Housing Department. Of that group, almost half, or 58,100 applicants, were under the age of 30. The average age of single non-elderly applicants was 34.

Although the number of young applicants fell by 8,400 since last year, the figures showed there was a rising proportion of highly educated young people waiting for a public flat. Among those under 30, 47 per cent were tertiary-level degree holders. In 2014, only 37 per cent of them were.

“This is becoming more normal. Once young people reach the age of 18, they apply for public rental housing as a kind of insurance,” said lawmaker Wilson Or Chong-shing, who is a member of the Housing Authority’s subsidised housing committee.

“With such scarce housing supply, we can foresee that this number is going to continue to grow, and we don’t know how long these young people will have to wait,” he said.

Fellow committee member Anthony Chiu Kwok-wai was concerned about the trend.

“It is worrying that young people are seeing getting into public housing as their aim when they should be the very people who have the highest chance of upward mobility,” he said.

With millions still in public housing, Hong Kong is failing its people

The government has been struggling to find land to build enough housing in Hong Kong – one of the world’s most unaffordable cities for buying and renting property. The housing shortage has forced more than 210,000 residents to live in subdivided flats, where cramped spaces and squalid conditions are common.

Non-elderly singles are put in a separate queue from families and single applicants above the age of 65 and generally face longer waiting times. The allocation quota for non-elderly singletons each year is 10 per cent, meaning if 22,000 flats are assigned to applicants each year, only about 2,200 non-elderly singles will be given a flat.

According to the Housing Authority’s quota and points system, which determines how long non-elderly singles wait for public housing, an 18-year-old has to wait about 30 years for a public flat in an urban area.

For family applicants, the average waiting time for a public flat has risen to 5½ years, according to data from the end of September. Single elderly applicants waited an average of two years and 10 months.

The Housing Department polled 2,310 applicants in the first quarter of the year to gauge why they had applied for public housing. According to the survey results, 69 per cent of those under 30 expressed a wish to live alone, about 21 per cent said their rent was too high and another 29 per cent said their living quarters were too small.

Both Chiu and Or agreed that the government could consider increasing the quota for non-elderly singles, with Chiu proposing that it could be raised to 20 per cent from the current 10 per cent.

Or added that the Home Affairs Department should also increase the number of places under the government’s Youth Hostel Scheme, a plan that offers affordable accommodation to working young people between 18 and 30 years old.

“At the end of the day, the key of course is to increase land supply, that’s the only way young people will be able to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Or said.