Hong Kong’s housing crisis just can’t look forward to long-term answers
The Lantau Tomorrow Vision will get way too very long to implement to get a town wherever hundreds sleep in substandard subdivided lodging
The goal of Lantau Tomorrow Vision is present Hong Kong with far more land for properties. Image: Reuters
The government’s the latest unveiling from the charges for its Lantau Tomorrow Vision proposal has divided the town: one fifty percent is anxious at allegedly exorbitant fees, whilst some estimates say the challenge will most probably flip in an eventual surplus; another half looks to see it as a panacea to systemic housing troubles.
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The formal pitch is usually that the challenge is usually a long-term answer, made to deal with Hong Kong’s increasing population and to ease the city of its land shortages. All’s truthful and noble, but we must take a stern seem at the stark truth.
The truth is, the Hong Kong inadequate can wait around now not. Not all people has the posh to find the money for ready it out to the promised general public housing.
Not the single mothers having difficulties to lift their young children as they prepare their dinners beside overflowing toilets. Not family members dependent upon only one, paltry income since they hold out in the never-ending queues for public housing. Not the 210,000 people today living in 93,000 subdivided households in 2018.
Approximately three for each cent of Hong Kong’s populace reside in bodily hazardous, socially exclusionary, and mentally debilitating disorders.
The physical risks extend from dire hearth safety laws (specifically in flats transformed from deserted industrial units, this sort of as types in Kwun Tong and to Kwa Wan) to horrifyingly nominal sanitation specifications – approximately 21 tenants would share one bathroom. Summers would carry forty diploma Celsius warmth for the ramshackle residences, when the winters would depart tenants shivering during the cold.
When i visited a subdivided flat in the summer of 2017, I spoke to a one lady who explained the repeated turnover of some cubicles, along with the pervasive perception of disgrace and guilt, manufactured it tough for tenants to form meaningful connections. They were being strangers in proximity – shackled to their fates inside the underbelly of Hong Kong, hardly ever noticed by travelers or even the city’s elite.
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To give credit where by credit is due, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s government has shown an unprecedented level of willingness (among administrations) to combat the issue of housing shortage. Beyond the Lantau project, the administration has mentioned 70 for every cent on the total housing supply target should be public housing, ensuring that a lot more plots are kept for this purpose. A vacancy tax drew the ire of speculative investors but would ensure greater turnover rates in housing for middle-class and lower-middle-class homeowners. Lam herself has shown some willingness to consult and engage the community on prospective remedies towards the land supply issue.
Yet these solutions are by no means enough. We need immediate measures that give relief to these residents.
From a governmental point of view, much additional can be done, these types of as the construction of interim accommodations with reasonable residing expectations that enable tenants to look ahead to general public housing in dignified circumstances; or perhaps the subsidisation of employers to pay workers living in squalid conditions higher wages to enable them to build up savings for relocation; or perhaps the provision of medical support and sanitary items to cage-home residents.
What can we do as individuals? We can donate resources to charities and organisations that work with the weak in Hong Kong. We could also seek to boost awareness with the issue, among our peers and influential actors, abroad or locally. We could empower the residents of cage houses by treating them not as victims but as individuals who are just as intelligent, hard-working and competent as you and I – but who have unfortunately got the short end on the stick and found themselves in destitution.
Lantau Tomorrow Vision may well be an integral part of our city’s future. Yet long-term options are not the panacea. The Hong Kong very poor can wait around now not. We have to deliver to them immediate, feasible and impactful options – now.
Brian YS Wong is an Mphil student of politics (political theory) at Wolfson College, Oxford University
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