Rethink on homes needed

City Talk | Siu Sai-wo 14 Aug 2019

Official figures show the supply of rental public housing and green form-subsidized home ownership scheme units will drop sharply by half to 6,100 units in the coming year.

Together with 6,800 home ownership scheme flats, the total supply of public housing unit in 2020-21 will be only 13,000 units. The decrease has been described as like falling off a cliff.

Public housing supply is tight and new sites are limited, so those who are on the lengthy waiting list are understandably anxious.

According to the original target, annual public housing supply of all kinds should be about 31,000 units. No wonder people are finding the latest figures shocking.

How to increase supply quickly seems to be a question to which there is no easy answer.

Some time ago, lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen, of the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape constituency, studied the problem and proposed a solution - adding annexes and more levels to existing public housing blocks.

This method, he argued, is practical as it is not costly and the construction time is short.

Also, the substantial number of existing public housing blocks means a large number of such additional units can be made available.

In the past, some private buildings have added levels at the top, like the Sun Hung Kai Center in Wan Chai and a CK Asset Holdings commercial building in Hung Hom.

However, it must be noted that the foundations of these private buildings were strong enough for such additional structures.

The question for public housing blocks completed many years ago is whether their foundations will allow for such additional weight. That is, perhaps, the reason why the authorities weren't enthusiastic about the suggestion.

The new supply figures shocked the public and some are hoping that the government will reconsider Tse's proposal.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Land is short and the need to increase housing supply is urgent, so to even have the possibility of finding a solution, we really need to think outside the box.

Siu Sai-wo is publisher of Sing Tao Daily

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