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Friday, October 17, 2014, 09:52

Through the roof

By Agnes Lu

Hong Kong’s soaring property market has fueled a steep rise in the number of young people seeking public rental housing. But, as Agnes Lu reports, the wait will be long and arduous.

Through the roof
Through the roof

An irate young doctor rang up a Hong Kong radio talk show recently to vent his frustration over the city’s runaway property market, groaning that he and his wife, also a doctor in her thirties, have been left out in the mad scramble to find a roof over their heads.

He claimed that, with the combined income of his own and his wife, even a tiny 500-square-foot flat in the city now seems almost beyond their reach.

The couple’s problems mirror part of the pathetic state of affairs confronting Hong Kong people as real-estate prices both in the SAR and on the mainland continue to spiral out of control despite tough measures undertaken by relevant authorities on both sides of the border to check skyrocketing home prices.

The state is such that both old and young Hong Kong residents have been hit hard.

Ka Yan is only 21, having just finished her Diploma of Secondary Education examinations and is looking for a job. To her, the doctor’s dilemma is no exaggeration and, perhaps, has made her panic — she’s determined to face reality and get her head out of the clouds.

Although still living with her family at Fu Cheong Estate — a Public Rental Housing (PRH) estate in Sham Shui Po — Ka Yan has been on the waiting list for PRH for more than two years, having wasted no time in submitting her bid for housing under the Non-elderly, One-person Applicants scheme immediately after she turned 18.

Not to her surprise, she’s still waiting for the good news, if they do come at all, from the Housing Authority.

“I’m still living in a PRH apartment with my family, but my name is not on the lease. If anything were to happen to my parents, the flat would be taken back and I could be left homeless,” Ka Yan told China Daily.

“I applied because I have to prepare a Plan B. Besides, I’m worried whether I could afford the rent (in the private sector) after I’ve got a job and moved out. Even the rent for a sub-divided unit nowadays is ridiculously high,” she said.

Her unease is exacerbated by learning that some applicants have to wait for at least seven years to get a PRH flat. To counter the problem, she plans to add her sister’s name to her application. “That should shorten our waiting time,” she reckoned.

Ka Yan’s predicament is akin to that of Ah Tak, a 29-year-old cleaner, who also put in his application for public rental housing more than two years ago. “At least seven years? Anyway, I think I should get a PRH apartment before I turn 40,” he said confidently.

Ah Tak had moved out of his family’s flat six years ago and now lives in a rooftop metal shack in Sham Shui Po. The rent alone costs him HK$3,000 a month, but nobody, including himself, knows how long he would have to put up with it. “Many young people like me can make only about eight or nine thousand dollars a month. Why shouldn’t they apply for public apartments? But I don’t think students should do that as they still have their families to rely on,” he said.

But he said he should have applied when he turned 18 in order to accumulate more “points”. The longer an applicant waits, the more points he or she accumulates. “If I had known that when I was 18, I would probably be living in a PRH apartment by now,” he laughed.

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