Hong Kong is one of the world's most densely populated places, with a population of around 7.5 million. So, its housing demand is incredibly high. But, the city faces challenges with a housing shortage, ultra-expensive prices and tiny spaces. Initially, the government pledged a three-year average waiting time for public housing, which was met from 2003 to 2014. Then it increased to 4.6 years in 2017 and reached six years in December 2020, the longest wait time since 1999.
In October, in the first policy address of Hong Kong leader John Lee, he promised 30,000 transitional public flats to reduce the waiting time. The government also has found land to build 360,000 permanent public flats by 2030. Plus, homes must be bigger – at least 280 square feet. (Although, that's still pretty small considering a flat with a kitchen and bathroom for families).
So, on Wednesday, Hong Kong's Housing Authority said the average waiting time for a flat in public housing has dropped to 5.6 years. The improvement is also due to the allocation of over 10,000 flats in Q3 this year.
“When the government dominates land supply in the future, and when we have accelerated land development and procedures, we may have the conditions to further raise the minimum flat size requirement,” said Secretary for Housing Winnie Ho Wing-yin on Tuesday. “But I believe it can only be done in the latter part of the last five years in the decade as it would take a similar time to digest the public housing wait.”
“The grassroots people are very much puzzled by Lam’s plans. If they can afford to buy a flat, they would not have needed to queue for a low rental unit,” said Sze Lai-shan, deputy director of the Society for Community Organisation, when the average wait hit the highest in 2020.
“Making the wait for public housing three years is still the government’s target. We are striving to achieve that,” said Secretary for Housing Winnie Ho Wing-yin earlier this month. “It is inevitable that more flats will be in the New Territories. We are still finding sites in urban areas and on Hong Kong Island. We hope flats can be spread across the city.”