Hong Kong’s housing crisis just cannot wait for long-term solutions

  The Lantau Tomorrow Eyesight will acquire too lengthy to put into action for just a town the place thousands rest in substandard subdivided accommodation

  The intention of Lantau Tomorrow Eyesight is present Hong Kong with far more land for properties. picture: Reuters

  The government’s latest unveiling of the costs for its Lantau Tomorrow Eyesight proposal has divided town: a single half is anxious at allegedly exorbitant charges, despite the fact that some estimates say the challenge will most probably flip within an eventual surplus; the opposite 50 percent looks to check out it being a panacea to systemic housing challenges.

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  The formal pitch is always that the job is often a long-term solution, intended to deal with Hong Kong’s expanding inhabitants and also to minimize the city of its land shortages. All’s truthful and noble, but we must have a stern glimpse within the stark actuality.

  The fact is, the Hong Kong bad can hold out not. Not anyone has the luxury to afford to pay for ready it out with the promised community housing.

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  Not the one moms struggling to lift their small children since they prepare their dinners beside overflowing toilets. Not households dependent upon a single, paltry salary as they wait in the never-ending queues for general public housing. Not the 210,000 persons living in ninety three,000 subdivided houses in 2018.

  Just about a few per cent of Hong Kong’s inhabitants reside in physically hazardous, socially exclusionary, and mentally debilitating circumstances.

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  The actual physical hazards increase from dire fire protection restrictions (specifically in flats transformed from abandoned industrial models, this kind of as ones in Kwun Tong and also to Kwa Wan) to horrifyingly small sanitation expectations - approximately 21 tenants would share only one rest room. Summers would bring forty degree Celsius warmth towards the ramshackle apartments, when the winters would go away tenants shivering in the chilly.

  When i visited a subdivided flat in the summertime of 2017, I spoke to your solitary girl who said the recurrent turnover of some cubicles, along with the pervasive sense of shame and guilt, manufactured it hard for tenants to form significant connections. They had been strangers in proximity - shackled for their fates in the underbelly of Hong Kong, never ever witnessed by vacationers or the city’s elite.

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  To give credit exactly where credit is due, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s government has shown an unprecedented level of willingness (among administrations) to combat the issue of housing shortage. Beyond the Lantau venture, the administration has mentioned 70 for every cent of your total housing supply target should be public housing, ensuring that additional plots are kept for this purpose. A vacancy tax drew the ire of speculative investors but would ensure greater turnover rates in housing for middle-class and lower-middle-class homeowners. Lam herself has shown some willingness to consult and engage the community on prospective solutions to your land supply issue.

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  Yet these answers are by no means enough. We need immediate measures that present relief to these residents.

  From a governmental point of view, much much more can be done, these types of as the construction of interim accommodations with reasonable residing specifications that enable tenants to anticipate community housing in dignified circumstances; or maybe the subsidisation of employers to pay workers living in squalid ailments higher wages to enable them to build up savings for relocation; or even the provision of medical support and sanitary items to cage-home residents.

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  What can we do as individuals? We can donate resources to charities and organisations that work with the very poor in Hong Kong. We could also seek to raise awareness from the issue, among our peers and influential actors, abroad or locally. We could empower the residents of cage homes by treating them not as victims but as individuals who are just as intelligent, hard-working and competent as you and I - but who have unfortunately got the short end of the stick and found themselves in destitution.

  Lantau Tomorrow Eyesight may well be an integral part of our city’s future. Yet long-term alternatives are not the panacea. The Hong Kong inadequate can wait around now not. We must deliver to them immediate, feasible and impactful alternatives - now.

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  Brian YS Wong is an Mphil student of politics (political theory) at Wolfson College, Oxford University

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