Housing chief says 3-year target over public housing waiting time still on govt’s agenda

Hong Kong’s housing chief said on Monday that the waiting time target of around three years for a public rental housing flat in the city remains the government’s ultimate goal.

Ever since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, authorities have promised to bring down the average waiting time for families to enter public housing to three years. In May, the number of public housing applicants hit 245,000, with an average wait time of 6.1 years — the highest in over two decades.

Speaking at a Legco meeting today, Secretary for Housing Winnie Ho Wing-yin said authorities will continue to strive for the three-year target. However, she said several factors will affect applicants’ wait time.

She noted that there will be a relatively larger supply of public housing flats in the New Territories, and if applicants opt for flats on the Island side, their wait time will be stretched even longer.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also raised concerns about whether authorities would set up a timeline to phase out subdivided units in Hong Kong.

In response, the housing chief said there will be an abundant supply of public housing units in the next 10 years, along with the introduction of the new Light Public Housing and transitional housing.

She believed that subdivided units of poor quality with expensive rents will no longer exist in Hong Kong within the next 10 years as there will be zero demand for such housing options.

Separately, lawmakers proposed authorities set up a reward program for tip-offs from residents or security guards on suspected cases of abuse in public housing units, and increase the penalty to free out more units.