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Wong Bing-mei immigrated to HK from Fujian, China in the 1970s; it has been nearly 40 years since she rooted her life in this City. During three decades, she and her family once lived in a 500-feet-government-subsized flat in Siu Sai Wan, Hong Kong Eastern District; since 2008, they quit leasing the public rental flat and bought another flat also subsidized by the government in the Eastern.

This process is Hong Kong residents’ public housing lease and ownership in nutshell. However, Wong and her family witnessed a good age from the 1970s to 1980s, when Hong Kong’s public housing policy came into effect from the beginning, and population in this city still did not blast. 30 years passed, Hong Kongers, who are waiting for their turns to live in public housing, basically need to wait for six or more years.

Distribution of Population by Type of Housing   Percentage
1st Quarter

2001

2006

2011

Public Permanent Housing

49.1

49

47.7

Rental Flats

31.2

30.4

30

Subsidized Sale Flats

17.9

18.5

17.7

National Geographic describes Hong Kong in this way, “A forest of high-rises, many of them public housing projects, covers central Kowloon, one of the world’s most crowded pieces of real estate. Despite Hong Kong’s glittery reputation, almost half of its seven million residents live in subsidized housing.”

Wong said, “I think Hong Kong’s public housing policy is very good, because it gives many people houses to live in, though they need to wait for years, they can hold hopes when waiting.”

Among another half of seven million residents, at least 21,400 of them live in a “cage home,” which is only 10-to-20-feet-big bunk grilled with iron wires. In all 18 constituency districts, most of cage homers rent their cages in Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok (Yau Tsim Mong), Wan Chai, Sham Shui Po. On the contrary, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Sha Tin’s cage homes are all below 400. In heavily populous Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, especially Yau Tsim Mong tops other with 3,900 cage homes; New Territory, where many public rental housings (PRH) stand, houses the least ones.

Yau Tsim Mong, Wan Chai, Central & Western’s residents have the highest ratio of median income against median rent. Among them, Yau Tsim Mong still is the No.1, tops over other districts with 26%, which means one resident in this district must pay 26% of his/her monthly salary for rent. Residents living in Tuen Mun only pay 9.2% of their incomes per month for their rents, since there are a lot of subsidized housing projects here.

The more public rental housing there are, the less property rent will be, and so is the number of cage homes. Wan Chai and Yau Tsim Mong have the Top 2 least PRH in all Hong Kong’s district councils, especially None of PRH there is in Wan Chai. Kwun Tong, Kwai Tsing, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, Wong Tai Sin, Shan Tin have more than 50,000 public rental flats, which house more than 1.3 million Hong Kong residents.

Rental of subsidized housing is based on location, size and condition, which ranges from several hundred to over two thousand. Income limits are made equal to every applier. 4-person household’s total incomes should be under $22,000, and single person’s highest income should be below $9,800 per month.

A few days, Hong Kong Housing Authorityv(HKHA) announced that 10% rise in public housing rental can be seen from September, which might affect about 700,000 tenants; the slow growth of income and severe inflation add insult to injury. To soften impacts, HKHA also imposes one-month rent waiver to those tenants.

Barry Fan, a born-and-raised Hong Konger, lives in subsidized housing for years; he gives himself a nickname “public housing boy.” He said, “Our family live in an old subsidized flat, we pay more than $1,000 per month. I think the supply of public housing cannot satisfy residents’ need. The growth of income cannot race with the increase of rent. I think, public housing has contributed a little for controlling real estate property price.”

According to the forecast by HKHA, from 2012 to 2016, there will be a total of 64,440 subsidized rental housings constructed, which will give at least 200,000 Hong Kong residents a cheap home to stay in.

Apart from public rental housing, HKHA also subsidizes Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) that allows Hong Kong residents to buy much cheaper flats than real estate in property market. By the first quarter 2011, 17.7% residents lived in subsidized sale flats.

Angel Wen, whose 3-person family also live in a HOS flat, said that HOS is beneficial for those who want to own their flats by paying much less. Like PRH, HOS flats also are way too short of supply at the present.

HKHA does not give any comments on 10% rent rise, or the scarcity of public housing supplies.

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