What if your entire household lived in a room the size of a parking space? For many citizens on the bottom rung of Hong Kong’s housing market, this is the reality.
In the central districts of Hong Kong, buyers in poverty are forced to choose between the infamous ‘coffin homes’ or life on the street. These 120 square-feet apartments offer little in the way of comfort —they are subdivided tenements that bend legal regulations to squeeze as many people inside as possible. Maintenance costs are offset by communal kitchens and toilets which introduces a whole host of potential hygiene risks, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data provided by The Hong Kong Standard shows that housing prices have rocketed over 187% in the last decade, which has been mostly attributed to the incredibly high demand. In May 2022, the number of public housing applicants hit 245,000 with an expected wait of over six years.
Geographically, Hong Kong should experience no issues with urban development. As covered by an investigative video by VICE, Almost 76% of the land in the region has undergone no urban development, and only 3.7% of available land is designated for residential planning. However, a combination of strict ownership laws and tax policies has created a significant shortage of housing for the general public.
According to the Community Legal Information Centre of Hong Kong, The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, acting on behalf of the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative, has the powers to lease and grant state land to the highest bidder, which are often real estate companies from mainland China. This has created a competitive market, which drives up housing prices exponentially.
The Government is incentivized to maintain this competitive market due to the nature of its taxation laws. In the Economic Freedom Report of 2022, Hong Kong was ranked #1 as the world's freest economy, due to its low sales and corporate taxation. This factor is a pride of the region, the government must subsidize their income from other sources such as the real estate market. The income generated from these ventures allows them to keep corporate taxes low, encouraging multinational conglomerates to do business in the region.
However, as public discontent grows to fever-pitch, the Hong Kong Government has begun to introduce policies aimed at reducing the crisis, to varying levels of success. Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee promised to build 30,000 units of "Light Public Housing" over five years, with the hope of cutting the waiting time for public housing to 4-1/2 years from six years. However, the scheme has been criticized as a ‘band-aid solution’ as each unit costs about the same as permanent public housing.
As it stands, there is no clear future for the housing crisis in Hong Kong, as policymakers deal with strong public and corporate pressure. We can only hope that further steps will be taken, no matter how small, in ensuring the disadvantaged citizens of Hong Kong have a house they can call home.
Share This Post On
Leave a comment
You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in