Habitat Hong Kong recognizes the Government’s commitment to addressing complexities around land supply and housing deficiencies, and the ongoing short, medium, and long-term planning to provide future land, public and private housing. We recognize the allocated supply of public housing over the next five years, whilst noting that the projected number of homes falls far short of current need by half. We also recognize the provision of HKD 1 billion in subsidies to improve living conditions of common structures of run-down buildings.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s 2021-22 budget speech delivered on 24 February put the estimated production of public housing over the next five years at 101,400 units, with roughly 74,400 of these comprising public rental housing. In addition, almost 24,000 transitional housing units are in the works or have an anticipated completion date of 2023. According to the Housing Authority website, as of December 2020 there were 153,900 general PRH applications and 99,500 non-elderly one-person applications. With a total of almost 250,000 applications for public rental housing, 74,400 PRH flats and 24,000 transitional housing flats will not even meet half of the current demand.
The 2021-22 Budget does not include allocations to address rental affordability for residents of subdivided flats and other substandard housing. Many SDU residents are suffering the impact of the current economic downturn, but continue to pay 41-50% of their income to cover rent and utility costs. High rents and overcharging for utilities in SDUs are major issues that have been acknowledged by the Task Force for the Study of Tenancy Control in Subdivided Units. Habitat urges the Government to continue to provide cash subsidies to PRH applicants who have been on the waitlist for over three years and to consider increasing the amount to cover the entire CSSA rent allowance. In addition, expanding the programme to provide a rent allowance for all households living in inadequate housing would help to relieve the financial burden on residents in this difficult economic time.
In Hong Kong, there are around 9,600 buildings that were built more than 40 years ago. The allocation of HKD $1 billion to provide subsidies to owners of old buildings to carry out drainage repairs and make other improvements to hygienic conditions in common areas is an encouraging step. Often, poor hygiene and safety hazards in old buildings are caused by lack of proper management, especially in three-nil buildings. The Government could consider allocating resources for building management and other professionals to offer their services part time or on an ad hoc basis to those old buildings to address various issues of hygiene, fire safety, electrical safety, drainage, structural safety, window repairs, and other various urgent maintenance needs.
The existence of subdivided units to a certain extent addresses the housing problem. Unfortunately, they are now unregulated. We ask the government to consider allocating funding resources to outsource the safety and hygiene checking exercise to professionals in the private sectors.