Focus on quality not quantity of public housing, officials told

The average waiting time for public rental housing will likely be shortened from 5.8 years to 4.5 years by 2026, while the government should focus on the quality rather than quantity of such flats, pro-Beijing think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation said.

In its latest report, the think tank, established by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, said the city’s land creation is entering a “harvesting period.”

“The government has a relatively abundant land reserve for the next 10 years, hence greater flexibility to adjust the quantity and pace of its land supply,” it wrote.

It expects 35,000 public housing flats to be completed annually over the next five years, 1.3 times more than the previous five-year period, exceeding the government’s Long Term Housing Strategy target by around 33 percent.

“If all public housing sites are delivered to the Housing Authority on time, there will be around 410,000 flats to be completed in the next 10 years,” the report said.

Given the quantity of flats to be completed, which will create a “buffer” to ensure a stable supply, the think tank called on the government to turn their eyes to citizens’ living quality, which was previously not possible due to the housing shortage.

“The time is ripe to transform better living quality from a long-term aspiration to reality. We are calling for an increase in affordable home ownership opportunities and per capita living space in the public housing sector,” said co-head of research Ryan Ip Man-ki.

He also said that any changes to the public housing sector need to strike a balance between the pursuit of shortening waiting time and providing adequate incentives for existing tenants to achieve home ownership.

Foundation president Jane Lee Ching-yee said Hong Kong is still grappling with and rectifying supply shortages and a decline in living quality after a 10-year halt in land creation and slowdown in housing construction efforts.

“Not only should we continue with land creation and housing construction under a systematic approach that would make the most of limited resources, but also we have to grasp the window of opportunity in enhancing quality,” she said.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com

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