Tuesday July 23rd
On the 23rd I left work early with the three other interns in our office to get a tour of a few of our boss’s district offices. My boss, Mr. Sin, drove us to two of his district offices. It was surreal sitting in a car! I have been in taxis in Hong Kong but it is different being in someone’s personal car. I really enjoyed the drive because I got to see parts of Hong Kong from a different perspective. At one point we were driving on a raised part of the highway that was feet away from the skyscrapers!
At the two district offices Mr. Sin’s employees told us what their jobs entailed. For the most part they are focused on connecting with the communities in order for Mr. Sin to continue to stay elected. When individuals walk into their offices with questions or in need of assistance it is up to Mr. Sin’s employees to find the answer or solution. Some of the most common things they deal with have to do with public housing in Hong Kong, and students needing funding for college. Some of the other tasks that the employees handle are creating brochures to be distributed on the streets during rush hour, hanging posters, and updating Mr. Sin’s website.
Over the course of the day the topic of public housing in Hong Kong kept coming up. Not knowing much about public housing I was intrigued. I definitely learned a lot! Here is what I discovered:
Public housing in Hong Kong is a set of mass housing programs through which the Government of Hong Kong provides affordable housing for lower-income residents. It is a major component of housing in Hong Kong, with nearly half of the population now residing in some form of public housing. The public housing policy dates back to 1953, when a fire in Shek Kip Mei destroyed thousands of shanty homes and prompted the government to begin constructing homes for the poor.
The Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society mainly build public housing. Rents and prices are significantly lower than those for private housing and are heavily subsidized by the government, with revenues partially recovered from sources such as rents and charges collected from car parks and shops within or near the residences.
Public housing estates are typically built in remote or less accessible parts of the territory, but urban expansion has left some older estates now deep within the inner city. They are found in every district of Hong Kong except in Wan Chai District. The vast majority of projects consist of high-rise buildings, and the recent buildings usually contain 40 or more stories. The typical size of a public housing apartment is 400 square feet and the typical size family that lives in it is 4 or more. Also the list of people waiting to get into public housing is enormous! At the end of March 2012, there were about 189,500 applications on the Waiting List for the HKHA’s public rental housing. The average waiting time for PRH for general applicants was about 2.6 years.
I was astonished by what I learned during my visit to Mr. Sin’s district offices. It was an enlightening day. I am so thankful for my living arrangements in the U.S.
If you’d like to learn more about Hong Kong’s public housing check this link: http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/docs/housing.pdf
If you want to see some crazy photos that really capture Hong Kong’s public housing check this link featuring photos captured by German photographer Michael Wolf: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2306842/Stunning-images-Hong-Kong-living-cubicles-look-just-like-Borg-cubes.html