測量師時代 SURVEYORS TIMES

Issue: 2011.10

A Decent Living Home – It’s Easier Said Then Done

“蝸居” (means tiny living home) is a hot topic in recent years. It highlights people living in a small space but are incapable to improve their living conditions by themselves. This has been an issue that is especially concerned by the youngsters born after the 80’s. With prices soaring in every aspect, property price and rent are of no exception. By comparison, the average monthly household income median was less than $3,000 in 1981, it had increased by six times to $18,000 in last year. However, such an increase still falls far behind the rocketing property prices that had increased much more than six times during the corresponding period.

Some people may feel that the previous generation works hard for a long period of time before they can acquire their own properties. Yet current generation demands to have their own properties within a couple of years after their graduation. It is therefore being accused that such an idea is impractical. However, one should not ignore the fact that there are huge diversities between the two generations, no matter the social environment, the job, salary raise and promotion opportunities, the standard of living etc. Nowadays, for a fresh college graduate, it is not uncommon that there could hardly be any significant raises in pay or position even after several years of hard work. Upward mobility is relatively slow. Thus it would be unfair and in fact, too critical to judge the new generation by adopting last generation perspective.

Young people also deserve a “home”. Assuming one earning a monthly income of $20,000, and to purchase a flat of about 500 square feet, it costs about four million nowadays. Therefore, ignoring other essential expenses one has to save up for about seventeen years for such an amount! Home ownership seems like a distant dream even one is prepared to lower the standard in terms of size and location. Furthermore, property prices will not stand still, and salary increments can never catch up with the rapid rising property prices. How could people afford to have their own living home that could put their mind at ease, and concentrate on work and family. It is easier said than done!

Some might blame the property developers for the rocket-high property prices which make young people impossible to own a home. But is it feasible and able to solve the problem if they are forced to sell the residential units at low prices? I believe that the effective means are to improve the economy, and to enhance opportunities for upward mobility, a balanced supply and demand of property units that would bring down prices to a reasonable and acceptable level. To this end, existing land and housing policy needed to be reviewed and adjusted and new mechanism has to establish and implement.

Recent Government Measures Reveal No Significant Success

Responding to the rising demand for public housing, the Government has recently introduced various measures, including the improvement in the transparency of property sales, additional stamp duty, increment on land supply, auctioning sites with flat size limits, activating secondary market of HOS and introducing “My Home Purchase Scheme” etc. Yet the implementation of these measures does not produce any significant result so far. Public resentment continues as the Government fails to give a clear picture for home ownership opportunities. The cessation of HOS in year 2003, coupled with the rapid increase of the property prices, there are less and less people who can afford property ownerships in the private market. Therefore, pressure for re-introducing the HOS is mounting, as such could provide the sandwich class people an option to afford to purchase their own home.

As a responsible government, it is her duty to meet people’s demand for a decent home. The provisions of low rental housing for low-income people are already a subsidized measure in home ownership. By implementing a low-renting concession, households can save up money for future home ownership. Yet will it create a negative effect to the property market by providing home at lower price to the sandwich class? The key is how to establish a system in which supplies could respond and adjust to change in market prices, purchasing power and living standard. The government needs to ensure that the policies will not end up with supply which will compete and overlap with the private market, and subsequently becoming some kind of unnecessary social welfare.


 

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