A concern group has asked the government to give more financial assistance to people who have to wait years for public housing. The group, Concerning Grassroots Housing Alliance, has just released a new survey that shows how much pressure the city’s poorest people are facing.
The study showed that a third of 380 grassroots families and individuals surveyed were spending more than half their monthly income on rent – even though they live in inadequate conditions, such as subdivided flats, coffin homes and rooftop shacks.
With rent prices outpacing wage growth year-on-year, 11.7 per cent to 4.3 per cent respectively, the group warned that two thirds of those polled in the survey would be spending more than half their monthly income on rent by 2021.
Tommy Ho Chi-chung, the group’s community organiser, said if wage levels continued to lag behind rent prices, the situation would only get worse.
Life inside 55 sq ft: sleeping with suitcases, cooking by the toilet and living on less than HK$300 a week
“This trend is very alarming. I can’t imagine how grassroots families will be able to afford a decent living if this continues,” Ho said.
The concern group cited Hong Kong’s mortgage application guidelines in comparison to the pressures faced by those living in even the most inadequate of living conditions.
Hong Kong Monetary Authority guidelines say that applications should only be approved if the monthly mortgage payments do not exceed half of the applicant’s earnings.
Shahryar Naeem, 18, from the University of Hong Kong, told Young Post that this system for mortgage applications should be reformed.
“Because of their low income, most grass-root families can’t apply for a mortgage,” said Shahryar. “Reforming the guidelines, perhaps by considering each application on a case-by-case basis, is a more effective way to help these families to own a public housing flat.”
Meanwhile, Ho said grassroots families are forced to survive under “immense pressure”, while waiting to be approved for public housing – a process that has now stretched to 4.5 years.
The group called on the government to introduce rental income and rental subsidies for public housing applicants who have been waiting for more than three years to get into appropriate accommodation.
Young Post junior reporter Clement O’Young, 15, from Sha Tin College, said providing financial assistance to these people is a good idea. “However, it was hard for the government to budget a large amount of money for them,” he said. “I hope the next Chief Executive will consider using the brownfields or reclaiming some areas to build more public housing flats, so the waiting time for these flats can be shorter.”