The waiting time for general applicants of Hong Kong’s public rental housing has “slightly reduced” to 5.3 years, according to the latest government data.

However, the leader of a concern group told HKFP that the government still had “a lot of room for improvement” to reach its initial target of three years’ waiting time.

Public Housing
A public housing estate in Hong Kong. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Housing Authority revealed the latest average wait for public housing applicants in a Thursday statement.

Over the year leading up to the end of March, general applicants had to wait for an average of 5.3 years before they were housed to a public housing unit.

The wait had been “slightly reduced” by 0.2 years over the previous quarter, the housing body said, while the wait for elderly single-person applicants had remained at 3.9 years.

According to the Housing Authority, the lower waiting time was “mainly due to the availability of a substantial number of flats for allocation in the past few quarters.”

The three-year promise

Man Yu-ming, the chairperson of the Federation of Public Housing Estates told HKFP on Thursday afternoon that there was still “a lot of room for improvement” in the government’s efforts to shorten the queue.

“The government promised years ago [applicants] would be housed within three years,” Man said.

The concern group leader was referring to the target set in an official white paper published in 1998, when then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa pledged to reduce the average waiting time for public rental housing to three years by 2005.

“Although the figure was improved by 0.2 years, if you look at the number of people in the queue, it is still relatively large. Additionally, the waiting time for single elderly applicants was unchanged,” Man added.

Data from the Housing Authority showed that there were about 133,200 pending general applications from families and elderly individuals. Additionally, there were 97,100 applications from “non-elderly one-person applicants,” who are allocated housing according to a ratings system and thus excluded from the waiting time.

Man said while the government’s “temporary measures” – such as transitional housing and Light Public Housing projects – had their merits in “relieving the pain of housing among underprivileged groups,” the root causes could only be solved by raising the supply of permanent public rental housing.

While acknowledging that land supply or urban planning could not be changed in the short term, Man urged the authorities to pay more attention to future land development and urban renewal projects.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.