Date
16 December 2017
At least on paper, a single tax will force marriageable individuals to get hitched, and therefore cut the demand for housing by half. Photo: Bloomberg
At least on paper, a single tax will force marriageable individuals to get hitched, and therefore cut the demand for housing by half. Photo: Bloomberg

How to solve the housing crisis: the 13th option

Among the many options Hong Kong is exploring to solve the housing shortage, here’s one that Chief Executive Carrie Lam is unlikely to seriously consider and mention in her first policy address: tax all singles.

But it’s a fascinating idea, at least on paper. Assuming that such a tax will force all marriageable individuals to abandon their single blessedness and get hitched, then this festering problem of not having enough land to build houses on and soaring property costs will be cut by half because demand will be cut by as much.

Let’s admit it: we live in a tiny city so we have to share.

But how do you expect a couple to live in a shoebox? Well, that’s another problem.

The case for a single inhabitant tax probably came from married people. Married people with children probably feel that they are sacrificing for the next generation, while single people with no offspring will weigh heavily on the social welfare system when they grow old and alone.

Japan is said to be considering introducing a single tax, according to Japanese newspaper Hokkoku Shimbun, citing a local official.

Although the report was quickly denied by the government, the concept of a single tax is being discussed in many Asian countries.

Many people believe that it will enhance the marriage ratio and fertility rates, but so far no government has seriously considered the idea because of worries that it may raise more problems than it can solve.

A Chinese University of Hong Kong survey in 2013 showed that the city’s low fertility rate was a result of the high cost of raising babies and the high barrier to housing.

We can safely assume the two factors would weigh even more on fertility because home prices have almost doubled in the past five years.

In fact, the housing shortage has become so acute that Carrie Lam has made it a point to address the issue even before she delivers her policy address.

She has set up a task force on land supply, which held its first meeting on Wednesday. It is considering 12 options to carve out 1,200 hectares of land for housing. 

These 12 options include reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, developing the edges of country parks and clearing cottage areas in the countryside. All of these options, of course, are controversial.

So why not also consider a single tax? It might not be a perfect solution, but it’s a proposal that we hope will contribute to making a more loving city.

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CG

EJ Insight writer

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