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Following is a question by the Dr Hon Priscilla Leung and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, in the Legislative Council today (October 22):
The CUHK Hong Kong Quality of Life Index 2013 released earlier by The Chinese University of Hong Kong indicated that the housing “affordability ratio” of Hong Kong people hit a record low in 12 years. The price of a residential flat with an estimated area of less than 400 square feet in Kowloon is equivalent to the total income of a household with a monthly income of $20,000 (i.e. the median monthly household income of all domestic households in Hong Kong) in 14.19 years, and such a duration is longer than the 4.68 years in 2002 by over two times. As such, the soaring property price makes it difficult for fresh university graduates or newly-wed couples to purchase homes. A survey even pointed out that nearly 70 per cent of young people were worried about their personal financial situation, which mainly involved home-purchase difficulties. Although the Government has plans to provide full funding to non-governmental organisations for building youth hostels, and the first batch of hostel units can be completed in 2016-2017 at the earliest, quite a number of young people were still perplexed about difficulties in home purchase. It has been reported that more and more young people prefer to emigrate overseas, which may result in a brain drain and a possible weakening of Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the long run. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has considered implementing short-term measures to alleviate home-purchase difficulties faced by young people and newly-wed couples, including providing rent allowance for them to rent flats in the first place and then purchase homes; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it has considered implementing different measures to encourage unmarried young people to live with their parents, thereby reducing their demand for home purchase; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether it has made reference to the policies on and application eligibility for youth hostels in overseas countries; if it has, of the details and conclusions; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) of the statistics on young people emigrating overseas due to home-purchase difficulties in the past three years; whether it has conducted any study on this issue; if it has, of the details and conclusions; if not, the reasons for that?
Housing is an important livelihood issue which both the Government and the public are concerned about. The Government attaches great importance to the housing needs of young people and different strata of the community, and is committed to providing different housing options for people of different levels of affordability.
My reply to Dr Hon Priscilla Leung’s question is as follows:
(1) To establish an effective housing ladder to facilitate young people and low- to middle-income groups to achieve their aspirations for home ownership, provision of Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats and other subsidised sale flats is now a standing feature of our housing policy. In the short term, the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) will launch the pre-sale of the first batch of about 2 200 new HOS flats in end-2014. In response to the home ownership needs of the society, the HA also launched the Interim Scheme to Extend the Home Ownership Scheme Secondary Market to White Form Buyers in 2013, allowing 5 000 eligible White Form applicants, including young people, to purchase HOS flats with premium not yet paid in the HOS Secondary Market. The HA will review the effectiveness of the Interim Scheme and consider whether to carry out another round of the Scheme. In the medium-to-long term, the Government will endeavour to achieve the supply target of an average of about 8 000 HOS flats per year in the next ten years. The construction programme of public housing flats for the next five years has already commenced. To increase housing supply in the subsequent five years, the HA, together with relevant bureaux and departments, has been proactively identifying sites suitable for HOS development in different districts. Apart from the HA, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) also takes part in the provision of subsidised sale flats to provide more home ownership opportunities for young people and the low- to middle-income families. In view of the enthusiastic response to the Greenview Villa project of the HKHS earlier, the Government has earmarked a site in Sha Tin for the HKHS to develop a similar project. The project is expected to provide about 1 000 subsidised sale flats.
There are different views on the suggestion for the Government to provide rent subsidies. We consider that at a time when the supply in the housing market is still tight, if the Government hastily introduces rent subsidies for tenants of private residential properties, there is high chance that this would stimulate rent increase, equivalent to benefitting the landlords with public money. Therefore, it is not appropriate to introduce such subsidies.
(2) For public rental housing (PRH) flats under the HA, there are already various arrangements in place to encourage the younger generation to live with their elderly parents so that they can take care of one another. For instance, under the Harmonious Families Priority Scheme for PRH applicants, a younger family can apply to live with their elderly parents or elderly dependent relatives in a PRH flat in any district, and enjoy a six-month period of priority processing over the applications by ordinary family applicants. Under the Harmonious Families Addition Scheme, existing elderly PRH tenants can add an eligible adult offspring as well as his/her family member(s) to their tenancies.
(3) As the housing problem faced by young people in different overseas jurisdictions varies, the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) primarily referred to the actual situation of Hong Kong in devising the Youth Hostel Scheme. The Youth Hostel Scheme aims to unleash the potential of under-utilised sites in the hands of non-governmental organisations and provide some relief to the current demand for housing accommodation of young people who wish to live independently. It also helps meet the aspirations of some working youths in having their own living spaces for a period of time, and an opportunity to accumulate savings to cater for their future development. When developing the policy framework and the admission criteria, the HAB has made reference to other relevant subsidised housing schemes in Hong Kong.
(4) Hong Kong residents travelling abroad are not obliged to inform the Government of their purpose of travel. Hence, the Government does not maintain direct statistics on emigration, including that of young people, and the reasons behind.