Chief Executive Carrie Lam has apologised for any confusion created over her suggestion that 800,000 public housing flats would be sufficient to fulfill the housing needs of low-income families.

There are around 756,000 existing public housing apartments in Hong Kong. Lam’s suggestion of limiting stock to 800,000 in a Ming Pao interview prompted critics to suggest she had misjudged the current housing situation, as families may have to wait for more than four years to be allocated public housing.

Lam said the incident was “unfortunate,” as the quote in question was only one line in an hour-long interview. She said it was an over-simplification of a relatively complicated concept and that there was no cap on the number of new units: “I express my apology for causing unnecessary public anxiety,” she said on Tuesday ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

“I want to make it very clear that the figure of 800 000 public rental units is not a target in terms of construction of public rental housing targets,” Lam clarified to reporters. “It is definitely not a ceiling on what the government is willing to produce for the people of Hong Kong.”

“The 800,000 figure is no more than a stocktaking of what we already have, which is 756,000, plus what are already in the pipeline that clearly will be kept as public rental housing, and whether this will be enough will depend on a lot of factors.”

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Under her new housing policy, the government will build more flats under the Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme (GSH) – a level above the public option on the housing ladder.

“Every single unit of GSH being sold will produce a vacant public rental housing unit for allocation to other families on the housing waiting list or will take care of one of those families in the queuing for the public rental housing,” she said. “So that by itself will not reduce the amount of units that we could allocate to families in need of public rental housing.”

public housing
A public housing estate under construction in Cheung Sha Wan. File Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

She stressed that the number of GSH flats to be used to replace public housing flats has yet to be decided by the Housing Authority, and the figure also depended on public perceptions of the GSH programme.

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.