Hong Kong housing prices skyrocket through the roof
Written by Andrea Chow
With the housing crisis sprawling across Hong Kong, more than 3.3 million people are living in cramped public housing with only 100 to 300 square feet of space. For those who cannot afford a public unit, their only remaining option is to rent illegal subdivided housing.
Is the government unable to afford more public housing? The answer is no. The Hong Kong government had a revenue of over $6 billion from 2017-18; but where does the government get their money from? Interestingly, it is not from collecting taxes but by the selling of land. The government sells land to businesses for billions of dollars, which allows businesses to then make money from it and keep the land for about 50 years. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2019 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, Hong Kong was ranked number one for the most expensive housing in the world.
You may ask, “Is there not enough land for building more affordable housing?” Again, the answer is no. All land in Hong Kong, save St. John’s Cathedral and the US Consulate General, is owned by the government, yet only 7% of the land is used for housing. Thus, 7.3 million people have to squeeze into that tiny amount of land. Though there is enough land to build new housing, the government would still rather sell the land to businesses to make more money out of those sales than build affordable housing. All these lead to lack of affordable housing, which brings along health hazards, hygiene hazards and security issues for Hong Kong’s poor.
Another reason for the lack of affordable housing is the growing population. There were only 6.6 million people in Hong Kong during 2000, but now the number has reached to 7.3 million. When the government is not building enough affordable public housing to answer the demand, the price of private housing will increase because businessmen will want to make money, and therefore, the poor people will never be able to afford a flat. This is not a good situation to be in because more people will have to live in cheaper housing, such as subdivided flats. A 1000 square feet flat could be subdivided into as many as 20 units, and many of them will only have one bathroom and one kitchen to share among all the families. Bedbugs, pests and unclean appliances can also cause health and hygiene hazards.
Why isn’t this problem fixed already? Because the government cannot give free housing to people as that will just make the government go bankrupt.
Overall, to minimize this situation, we can collect signatures and petition the government to build more public housing to meet the needs of the growing population. We can also ask the government to create policies to regulate subdivided flats for residents. Another thing we can do is to promote and support NGOs that work towards fixing this issue, like Crossroads, Impact HK, and Light Be. The people of Hong Kong must work together to make housing more affordable for everyone.