Mr. Lee’s vision for Hong Kong includes streamlining procedures to provide more housing and better living as a key tenet. We couldn’t agree more. However, we note that the four core policies underpinning this goal are largely focused on increasing land and housing supply. We urge a vision for housing that also values quality living conditions. In the wake of Covid waves – and to protect against future pandemics – the health, safety, and well-being of tenants must be a priority. The Hong Kong SAR Government has committed to fulfill the right to an adequate standard of living which includes adequate housing.1 Following through with a rights-based approach would support the vital function of housing as a safe and healthy place to live.
Public Rental Housing (PRH) Advance Allocation Scheme
Moving PRH applicants into public housing before supporting facilities are completed has resulted in hardship in the past. Lacking community and commercial facilities, transportation to jobs, schools, medical appointments, and shopping hubs becomes a lifeline for residents. Yet with no MTR access and limited bus service, commute times easily double or triple as bus-stop queues build.  A dearth of grocery stores and wet markets drive prices for even basic staples sky-high, while social welfare facilities are inaccessible. The loud noises and air pollution generated by construction must also be taken into account. At a bare minimum, we ask the government to ensure that prospective tenants are fully informed of the situation to empower them to choose whether or not to move into public housing before supporting facilities are completed. To minimize disruption and hardship, the completion of supporting facilities should be prioritized.
Northern Metropolis Development Strategy
As development studies progress, we urge the government to plan for the integration of Universal Design and barrier-free access across residences, community facilities, shopping areas, and transportation infrastructure in the Northern Metropolis and other areas. In Hong Kong, compliance with current barrier-free design guidelines lags. As a result, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and many elderly residents experience exclusion daily and are restricted from an independent life. PWDs make up over 7% of the population and the percentage of elderly is expected to increase to 33% by 2039 – making it clear that Universal Design and barrier-free access would directly benefit a large portion of the community.
Solving Problems Together
Inviting people from all walks of life to contribute to problem solving is a valuable step in building a strong and united commmunity. An inclusive approach that involves members of ethnic minority groups, PWDs, youth and elderly and is gender balanced, will contribute richness and innovation to this process. Transparent decision-making and accountability to participants will go a long way to ensure that having a seat at the policy table is a meaningful avenue for public input and effectively leverages the collective wisdom of communities.
While housing policies aim to increase land and supply, Mr. Lee declined to put forward policies to improve the dire housing conditions of people living in substandard housing such as subdivided flats (SDUs). If housing conditions are not improved, over 200,000 current SDU tenants and thousands of future tenants will continue to suffer unsafe, substandard, and unhygienic living conditions for years to come.
Regulated tenancy measures for SDUs came into effect in January 2022. Effective implementation, monitoring, and enforcement are key if real improvements are to be realized. Additional measures, such as those to regulate initial rent costs and living conditions, must be addressed as well. We urge Mr. Lee to prioritize these developments and include in his vision policies that address further aspects of adequate housing – affordability habitability, secure tenure, and the provision of basic services.2
1] Lack of Public Transportation, Disaster of Planning of Anderson Road, (2019, Feb. 10), Wen Wei To
2] Social Welfare Facilities in New Housing Estates are Insufficient, (2017, April 11), Oriental Daily
3] Habitat Hong Kong Housing Forum (2021, October)
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