Hong Kong leader vows to focus on housing, land supply and find long-term solutions to issue of subdivided flats

“The two children were doing homework in the cooking area, which is also used for eating. Clothes were also hung above that area,” he said.

In a social media post, Lee noted the flat measured just over 100 sq ft (9.3 square metres) and he could smell the fumes of the cooking oil mixing with the scent of laundry.

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“Living under a proper roof is what families care about the most, but each family will have a preference for where they want to live. The most important thing is to give them more choices and make sure they are informed about these options,” he said. “The public can be assured that land supply and housing will be the government’s long-term focus.”

His housing policy would ensure that residents “did not become homeless”, he added.

Hong Kong has 110,000 subdivided flats, where more than 220,000 of the city’s poorest residents live as they wait for 5.3 years on average for public housing. Most of the flats range between 20 and 200 sq ft, and are often associated with poor hygiene, high fire risks and other safety concerns.

According to the city leader, the government has secured enough land to build 360,000 public flats in 10 years, but two-thirds of the homes will be put onto the market in the second half of the time frame.

City leader John Lee speaks to residents in Yuen Long on Sunday. Photo: Facebook/John Lee

In a bid to fill the gap in the first five years, Lee’s administration earlier offered to build 20,000 transitional homes and 30,000 light public housing flats, with priority given to families on the waiting list for at least three years.

“We are studying solutions to address the long-existing subdivided housing problem,” Lee on Sunday said, while stopping short of saying whether specific measures to support residents would be included in his blueprint.

Sze Lai-shan, deputy director of the Society for Community Organisation advocacy group, urged the government to set a timeline to reduce the number of subdivided flats in the next 10 to 20 years.

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She drew attention to those residents who would be ineligible for transitional flats because they had been on the public housing waiting list for less than three years.

“While people are waiting for public housing, they would like to have some immediate cash support,” she said, referring to rental subsidies and a one-off grant for underprivileged households.

She cited an online survey by the NGO that polled 644 residents between mid-August and Monday of last week and found more than 60 per cent expected the government to prioritise housing and land supply in the coming policy address.

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Frankie Wong Po-wing, who is unemployed, has lived in a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po for six years. The 60-year-old was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo medical treatment. He said he felt hopeless about the prospect of securing a public flat.

“Of course I hope to live in better conditions,” he said. “But I don’t know how much time I have left in this world. What more can I ask for?”

In 2021, the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Xia Baolong, gave the city government a deadline of 2049 to get rid of its subdivided flats and cage homes.

Scott Leung Man-kwong, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council housing panel, told the Post on Sunday the government should first guarantee that all transitional and light public housing projects were completed by the end of 2027, as scheduled.

City leader John Lee says most of the locals he met had given him positive feedback about the government. Photo: Elson Li

“Meanwhile, the government should start now to study possible laws to regulate subdivided housing, with the aim to eliminate subdivided units in poor condition on the market,” said Leung, who argued there would still be “rigid demand” for subdivided flats with proper living environments.

He said such regulations, which might include requirements for standard rental fees, fireproofing, ventilation and sanitation, could be launched in the first half of the city leader’s 10-year housing plan.

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Lee also visited hygiene black spots on New Street in Yuen Long, before joining residents for yum cha at the Red Duke Banquet Restaurant.

He told reporters that most of the locals he met had given him positive feedback about the government and encouraged him to continue the good work.

Yuen Long became the site of deep divisions between the government and Hong Kong society following the infamous attacks of July 21 in 2019 in which a white-clad mob with metal rods and rattan canes attacked commuters and protesters. The incident marked a turning point for the anti-government protests that erupted in June of that year over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.

Lee’s first community visit on Friday took him to neighbourhoods in Tsuen Wan, where he spoke with elderly residents and their carers in Fuk Loi Estate and at two service centres.


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