The average waiting time for a public rental housing flat in Hong Kong has decreased for the first time in three years, falling to six years, according to the latest official statistics. The latest figure, which measures the wait for general applicants for the city’s public rental housing and was recorded at the end of June, was a slight decrease from the 6.1 years at the end of March . It is the first time the wait has shortened since the end of June in 2019, when the duration dropped to 5.4 years, down from the 5.5 years recorded a quarter earlier. Hong Kong’s new leader ‘must ease resale curbs’ to solve housing crisis The Housing Authority said the change was mild and represented slight fluctuations between quarters. Statistics from the authority also showed that among the general applicants the average waiting time for elderly individual applicants was 4.1 years. As of the end of June, there were about 144,200 general applications for public housing, while there were also about 98,400 non-elderly one-person applications under the quota and points system. Hopefuls in that category can spend up to decades in the queue. But experts and lawmakers said the latest decrease was too small a dip to show a real downward trend and called for the new government led by John Lee Ka-chiu to do more to further reduce the amount of time applicants waited. The previous wait of 6.1 years was the longest since 1998. Lee has made housing a priority of his administration. He earlier said his goal for housing was to at least keep the waiting time from increasing before finding ways to make it shorter, and he has set up two task forces to provide more land and flats at a faster pace. Anthony Chiu Kwok-wai, executive director of the Federation of Public Housing Estates, said he believed the latest decrease in waiting time was merely a result of quarterly fluctuations rather than real improvement, and he expected the delay to continue remaining significant with an upward trend. “The waiting time has long remained at a high level. It has not peaked yet,” he said. Chiu said the waiting time could hover at around six years, or even increase to 6.1 to 6.2 years unless the government took action, including building more public rental housing units and shortening the construction time to enable residents to move in sooner. “Our basic expectation for the new government is that the waiting time could be at least kept from rising further during its term, but the ideal is to cut it to three years,” he said. Can John Lee fix Hong Kong’s housing crisis? Lawmaker Chan Hok-fung, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong’s spokesman on housing affairs, said the decrease in waiting time was partly helped by some 22,600 newly completed public rental units in 2021-22, a new high in recent years. But with an average of fewer than 12,000 new units set to be offered annually over the next four years, he warned the waiting time could soon rise above six years again. He urged the government to provide 30,000 newly completed public rental units annually to “clear the queue”. He also called on the authorities to closely monitor the progress of the construction of transitional housing units, which provided a good interim arrangement for those waiting for a public rental unit, and ensure the provision of 20,000 such units.