Critically examine the response of Hong Kong government to the housing problems of the urban poor.
Hong Kong is a densely populated metropolitan so there are a lot of housing problems especially for the urban poor. As the housing problems in Hong Kong such as the shortage of housing units are getting more acute, it is worth making an in-depth analysis for the sake of gaining a deeper insight of the responses of the government in housing problems.
I will focus on different measures and actions taken by Hong Kong government in 21th Century. All data collected is based on library research and online research. There are three main responses after the comprehensive research. The following are what Hong Kong government gives responses to the housing problems of the urban poor.
First, in response to the problem of shortage of housing, the government facilitates the process of building public rental housing. There is a lack of land and property prices are not affordable for the urban poor. If the government does not provide and subsidize the public housing for the poor, they will, inevitably, live in sub-divided units and even become homeless. So, the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HKHA) is responsible for implementing public housing program which is aimed at helping to meet the housing needs of the urban poor. While people can live in public housing as it provides better living spaces for them, there are some criticisms of this public housing scheme.
The waiting time is too long which is not reasonable for the urban poor as many of them are now still living in unsafe places like sub-divided units and cage-like houses. According to the Transport and Housing Bureau’ report (2012), ‘at the end of March 2012, 189 500 applicants are still on the waiting List for the HKHA’s public rental housing. The average waiting time for public rental housing for general applicants is about 2.6 years.’ This indicates that the government is not efficient and effective in providing the public housing for the urban poor as Polly Hui (2011) mentioned, ‘the government is lacking resources for developing and searching for construction and residential sites is the ultimate root of the problem.’
Besides the long waiting time for public rental housing, the government cannot provide sufficient housing assistance. In 2012, 31330 public housing units are provided for the urban poor which is not sufficient because Joseph Li (2012) said, ‘the steering committee did not estimate accurately the housing demand of the urban poor’. Paavo Monkkonen (2011) also criticized, ‘the Hong Kong government does not consider other possibilities of expanding the housing assistance for the urban poor such as carrying out a demand-side rental assistance scheme gradually and starting with support for those living in outlying estates who cannot find appropriate employment’.
Also, the location of public housing is ill-matched to the needs of the urban poor. Michael Pacione (2009) mentioned, ‘the units constructed are not popular with the residents as many schemes are located at the urban periphery far from the location of employment’. In Hong Kong, due to the sub-urbanization, many new towns were created in the New Territories. There is a mismatch between residence and job location which increases the transportation cost of urban poor when commuting to work. According to the 2001 Population Census, ‘about 46 per cent of the working population living in the New Territories (where most new towns are concentrated) but in Hong Kong Island CBD and Kowloon where commercial and financial land uses are concentrated. The proportions of people living and working in the same area were 62.4 and 50.5 per cent respectively. With less than half of residents in the New Territories working there, there is a great deal more commuting than on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It is estimated that by 2011, in the New Territories, the population will increase by...
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