Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan has linked the growth in private cars in Hong Kong to housing issues facing young people.

There are more than 700,000 registered cars in Hong Kong, which has put a strain on the availability of parking spaces.

Frank Chan. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Chan was asked on a Commercial Radio programme on Sunday whether he would consider using the current licencing system to control the growth of private vehicles.

“The younger generation thinks a bit differently compared to our generation,” he said. “Now that housing prices have skyrocketed, I can’t buy a flat, but I do want to have some space to let my body and soul wander around – thus many young people buy cars when they can’t buy housing.”

He said that he spoke to young people and found that they purchased cars so that they could transport elderly and young family members.

‘Disconnected with reality’

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said Chan was “disconnected with reality.”

“Secretary Chan, do you know much a parking space is now? How much the rent is? Have you ever heard that it’s easy to buy a car, but it’s difficult to pay for car maintenance?” he said.

Social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said Chan was able to understand that young people desire mobility, but he was still bound by traditional thought, as young people no longer used economic capacity to define their values.

Michael Luk (left) getting his driving licence in August 2017. Photo: Facebook/Michael Luk.

However, Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Michael Luk said he agreed with Chan that the growth in cars was related to land issues.

“It explains why the number of private cars grew almost 50 per cent over the past ten years – as young people can’t afford a home, [but] they buy cars in the hope of some private space and sense of autonomy,” he said.

Luk said growth will slow down if housing issues are resolved, and it will help with road congestion and parking issues.

On the programme, Chan said the government was studying measures to limit the growth of vehicles on the road: “Is an increase in first registration tax feasible? Yes, we hope it’s the last resort,” he said.

On increasing parking spaces, Chan said the government was studying whether to allow loading areas at industrial and commercial buildings to become parking lots at night. He also said the government will consider whether to allow commercial vehicles to park in slow traffic lanes at night on less busy roads.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.