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Current Situation with Housing in Hong Kong
The situation with housing in Hong is growing increasingly worse every year. According to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, the city has been established as having had the most expensive housing market in the world for seven years in a row (Saiidi). During the period 1985–2010, there were two great “boom-bust cycles” in the Hong Kong housing market (Funke and Paetz 63). Between 1995 and 1997, prices for residential property rose by 65%. After the crisis, in just one year, prices fell by 36% (Funke and Paetz 63). After several such leaps, housing prices kept growing until they reached an unbelievably high level in recent years. The ratio between median house prices and gross yearly median household income in Hong Kong is 18.1 (Saiidi). This number is huge, and in comparison, the second most expensive city to live in—Sydney—has a considerably lower score of 12.1 (Saiidi).
There are several reasons why it is so expensive to reside in the city of Hong Kong. In the first place, the connection between supply and demand is a significant factor. Demand is high, but the supply is too low to satisfy all the citizens who are interested in buying an apartment. The second reason is that mainland developers demand too much for the land. In the meantime, the government is in charge of approximately half of the total supply of housing via public rentals and programs aimed at helping low-income families (Saiidi). The third explanation for exorbitant housing prices in Hong Kong is that high property values make it possible to keep taxes low. Thus, if property values drop, it might be necessary to reevaluate the current tax system (Saiidi).
In considering the critical situation regarding housing in the city, the question of transitional housing becomes acute. If the government cannot provide citizens with their apartments, it should at least do its best to provide the opportunity to live in comparatively good conditions while people are waiting for their turn to buy. However, as the following data indicate, transitional housing options are neither always affordable nor efficient.
The Global Trend in Transitional Housing
In many countries around the world, transitional housing exists in several forms. The variety of transitional housing programs addresses many needs: women suffering from domestic violence, children, veterans, homeless people, teenage mothers, and other underserved groups.
Young people are some of the most vulnerable citizens to be impacted by the need to seek their own homes. In Hong Kong, the question of housing for youth can be considered critical. According to Forrest and Xian, the housing issue in Hong Kong displays apparent local characteristics, but at the same time, it is closely connected with economic and political issues (1). Managing this housing problem is considered one of the priorities of the city’s government.
As well as Hong Kong, other cities are dealing with the problem of a lack of housing. However, the majority manage this issue effectively. The United States, Canada, New Zealand, and other countries are making efforts to provide their citizens with transitional housing. Canada, for example, has transitional housing programs that are aimed at reducing homelessness for women (Fotheringham et al. 835). The United States offers programs for at-risk homeless parents (Holtrop et al. 177–179). Transitional housing in New Zealand focuses on eliminating causes of homelessness and providing people with sustainable housing opportunities (“Case Study”). It is necessary to learn from these countries’ experiences and arrange similar conditions for people living in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the current situation in the city is not satisfactory.
Housing as a Social Asset
In discussing the possibilities that housing can provide for people, it may be considered more of a social asset than merely real estate. People feel more secure and confident when they know that they have a place to return to every evening. Moreover, having a decent place to live may eliminate the stress and discomfort that millions of Hong Kong’s citizens are currently experiencing. Some people spend a significant part of their lives waiting for public housing. So-called “coffin homes” are the parts of an apartment divided into several small spaces (“People Are Living in ‘Coffin Homes’”). The price for such a place is nearly $225, and the commodities are rather poor. The spaces are narrow, the air in them is polluted, and the shared facilities are primitive.
Quite often, citizens staying in “coffin homes” do not even have enough room “to stretch their bodies” (“People Are Living in ‘Coffin Homes’”). As a result, a lot of social problems may appear, as well as psychological issues. In 2015, the average rental cost grew by 10.5% ($540) (“People Are Living in ‘Coffin Homes’”). In accord with these facts, it is apparent that housing can be regarded by people not primarily as real estate but as a chance to gain social stability and confidence. People’s psychological problems are closely associated with the possibility they may have to possess a place where they feel relaxed and happy. The inability to own such a place makes many citizens of Hong Kong, as well as those in other big cities, feel anxious about their present and future. When there is no possibility of good living conditions and no prospect of leaving anything for their children, citizens’ social self-evaluation will, as a result, below.
Case Study: Transitional Housing Program in New Zealand
The Ministry of Social Development of New Zealand initiated a project to supply more transitional housing for people in Otahuhu, Auckland (“Case Study”). The forty-three houses built for the program are situated on Luke Street. The first families to be taken into the project started rebuilding their lives in February 2017. The program incorporated building homes with two to four bedrooms to provide the chance to have adequate housing for people who temporarily could not afford it (“Case Study”).
The construction of houses was performed in several stages. To complete the project, the ministry arranged cooperation with three emergency housing companies: Vision West, the Salvation Army, and Monte Cecilia. These providers are supposed to aid the families living in the houses on Luke Street. Families participating in the program stay for nearly three months, during which they receive all the necessary help and services (“Case Study”). However, even better, the emergency housing providers also take on the responsibility of finding permanent accommodation for the families when 12 weeks come to an end (“Case Study”).
Monte Cecilia took care of the first families that started living in the transitional houses. A few months later, the company’s CEO, Bernie Smith, reported that four of those families had moved into more sustainable places: one into Monte Cecilia’s property and three more into Housing New Zealand houses (“Case Study”). The progress of families staying in transitional housing is positive. Monte Cecilia representatives admit that there is a lot of work to be done, but the company is trying to provide sufficient support and give the necessary information that is aimed to provide resilience for these people (“Case Study”). The following services, among others, are provided for the residents:
- transportation by bus to the Plunket Society as well as other health-related visits;
- making sure that children go to school;
- organizing sessions on financial literacy;
- providing families with fresh groceries from Kiwi Harvest;
- advocacy support and social work;
- helping with translation for those who do not speak English (“Case Study”).
One of the first families to enroll in the program is now living in their own house, received with the help of Monte Cecilia (Harrowell). Since their arrival from Samoa in 2016, this family with seven children could not find proper housing. They had to stay with relatives for some weeks or months, but living conditions were inadequate since their aunt and cousins had big families. The Smiths couldn’t stay in any of those places. The family was lucky to be included in the project initiated by the Ministry of Social Development. They got even luckier when, with the assistance of Monte Cecilia, they obtained a two-story, five-bedroom house in Auckland (Harrowell). The family cannot be happier. As the mother of seven, Carol Smith reports that it is the first time they have had a warm and comfortable house (“Case Study”).
The example of this case study demonstrates the profound positive changes that may appear for people participating in transitional housing programs. Therefore, it is necessary to do everything possible to increase people’s access to similar projects. Many different factors may lead to homelessness, but there is one good solution to these problems: transitional housing. It allows people to live in comfortable conditions while somebody takes care of looking for a permanent place for them. Transitional housing is a great solution to a variety of social problems.
“Case Study: Transitional Housing Helping to Rebuild Lives.” New Zealand Government, 2017, Web.
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Forrest, Ray, and Shi Xian. “Accommodating Discontent: Youth, Conflict and the Housing Question in Hong Kong.” Housing Studies, Forthcoming 2017, pp. 1-17.
Fotheringham, Sarah, et al. “‘A place to rest’: the Role of Transitional Housing in Ending Homelessness for Women in Calgary, Canada.” Gender, Place, and Culture, vol. 21, no. 7, 2014, pp. 834-853.
Funke, Michael, and Michael Paetz. “Housing Prices and the Business Cycle: An Empirical Application to Hong Kong.” Journal of Housing Economics, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 62-76.
Harrowell, Chris. “Family-of-Eight Move into Housing NZ Property in South Auckland with Support from Monte Cecilia Housing Trust.” Manukau Courier. 2017, Web.
Holtrop, Kendal, et al. “It’s a Struggle but I Can Do It. I’m Doing It for Me and My Kids”: The Psychosocial Characteristics and Life Experiences of At-Risk Homeless Parents in Transitional Housing.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, vol. 41, no. 2, 2015, pp. 177-191.
Saiidi, Uptin. “Here’s Why Hong Kong Housing Is so Expensive.” CNBC. 2017, Web.
“People Are Living in ‘Coffin Homes’ Because of Hong Kong’s Skyrocketing Property Prices.” Global News. 2017, Web.