Hong Kong’s new chief executive John Lee has made housing a key priority, appointing two task forces to look into housing and land supply issues.
They are due to submit their first report within 100 days of the new term – which falls on Saturday (Oct 8).
An existing short-term solution to Hong Kong’s housing crisis lies in a 2018 government initiative: Transitional housing.
It is catered to low-income residents living in inadequate environments, like subdivided flats or cage homes.
Under the scheme, public and private developers can convert their old facilities into public housing.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can also tap on a HK$11 billion (US$1.4 billion) fund to build and run these projects.
As of August, the government has identified land to shore up 21,996 transitional housing units, of which 5,418 are already in operation.
These units range from 152 sq ft to more than 300 sq ft, depending on the size of the household.
Mr Tsao Shin Fu’s household is among 140 in a transitional housing project called Ying Wa Street Social Housing.
It’s a big improvement for the 77-year-old, who used to live in a cage home in Mongkok.
“I was always bitten by lice during my five years in a cage home at Mongkok,” he said. “(The space) was slightly bigger than two feet. As I lived on the upper shelf, I couldn’t stand up. I even had to eat my dinner on the bed.
“My home right now is much bigger and more comfortable. I can do some exercises after I wake up in the morning and also at night.”
There are windows with an outdoor drying rack next to his single bed, where he can hang his clothes. A few steps away is a kitchenette, and an ensuite bathroom. It’s clean and private – luxuries he couldn’t afford in the past.
The Lee administration wants to build more of such houses, faster. But it’s not that simple.
AN IMPERFECT SOLUTION
Among the issues is who takes responsibility for constructing these transitional homes, said Ms Sze Lai Shan, deputy director of local NGO Society for Community Organisation (SoCO), which manages such housing projects.
“NGOs take up the responsibility of building the transitional homes. But since the government can work with the Housing Department, Housing Society and Urban Renewal Authority, they should be responsible for construction,” she said.
“Afterwards, the NGOs can take up the operation and management roles.”
The two-year tenancy limit under the scheme brings another set of problems. Some projects allow residents to renew their lease – but this is not guaranteed.