The government revealed in its Long Term Housing Strategy report that there are 86,000 subdivided flats, 30 percent more than in the middle of last year, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Monday.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung said it is a social tragedy and that he felt depressed that some Hongkongers had no choice but to live in partitioned rooms.
As the Housing Authority has to build 290,000 public housing units in the next 10 years, it will face increasingly high financial pressure, although there is no imminent need for capital injections, as it has a HK$27 billion (US$3.5 billion) cash reserve.
Despite the surge in the number of subdivided flats, Cheung said the government has no intention of imposing regulations on such units or reintroducing rent controls.
He said the key to resolving the issue lies in the increase of housing supply.
Rushing out licensing policies or registration systems for these flats would only cut down on their number and push rents up, Cheung said.
Financial Secretary John Tsang said the supply of land is key in increasing public housing supply and the Housing Authority needs to boost its cash reserve to meet such needs.
Agnes Wong, the deputy secretary for transport and housing, said at an event on Sunday that the cost of building a public housing flat has increased to HK$900,000, and building a Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flat now costs HK$1 million.
The Housing Authority’s cash reserve can support the cost of construction until 2017/2018, she said. However, it will require further funding for the period beyond 2018.
Wong said the Housing Authority will need to further discuss with the government the frequency and methods of capital injection.
Lau Kwok-yu, associate professor in the Department of Public Policy at the City University of Hong Kong, said the government did not have a long-term housing strategy in recent years, which has caused a catastrophic shortage of residential flats. Better late than never, he agreed.
Chan Hoi-chi, a community organiser for the Alliance for Concerning Grassroots Housing Rights, said the Long Term Housing Strategy report was disappointing for the grass roots.
She forecast the number of households on the waiting list for a public housing flat will rise to 400,000 in the next 10 years from 260,000 now.
If only 200,000 public housing flats will be built, the problem cannot be resolved, Chan said.
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