Need for subsidized housing

Updated: 2013-07-26 06:34

(HK Edition)

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The Housing Authority on Wednesday opened 832 housing units left over from the last phase of the Subsidized Housing Scheme for applicants whose numbers are up to choose from. Eight of the 23 people who attended chose units in a residential estate in Tin Shui Wai that have been vacant for over a decade due to a short-piles scandal.

The fact that applicants picked flats in a building on short piles the first day they became available shows how eager some grassroots households are to realize their homeownership dream, and subsidized housing is an important ring in the chain of upward mobility. It also highlights the fact that demand for subsidized housing is very strong but supply is far behind; while private housing prices are much too high for average consumers. It is particularly necessary for the government to increase land supply for private housing development apart from that for public and subsidized housing schemes in the New Territories so as to bring housing prices down to affordable levels there.

Subsidized housing is designed to meet demands for affordable flats from people not rich enough to buy commercial housing or poor enough to qualify for public housing. The government should keep a reasonable amount of subsidized housing in the pipeline while increasing land supply for public and private housing development in the years to come, because there is obvious demand for such units, which serve as an important step for many residents who cannot afford private housing or qualify for public housing to eventually become homeowners. Low-rent public housing allows tenants to save for subsidized housing purchase and the latter is indispensable for people to become private homeowners step by step.

The government stopped building subsidized housing in recent years and in a way dashed many local residents' hopes of becoming homeowners. It is safe to say that resuming subsidized housing supply will help keep many people's hope of becoming homeowners alive and give them a good reason to work hard toward achieving that goal. With private housing prices showing no sign of coming down any time soon, subsidized housing supply should be resumed in the near future and kept on until market prices of private properties return to affordable levels.

This is an excerpted translation of a Wen Wei Po editorial published on July 25.

(HK Edition 07/26/2013 page1)