Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

Fix Hong Kong’s housing crisis by following New York’s lead

Fix Hong Kong’s housing crisis by following New York’s lead

New York’s approach is focused on rezoning unused office buildings into flats, something Hong Kong can do with empty industrial and quarantine buildings. John Lee should use his executive powers to enforce a housing policy for the people and deliver long-overdue affordable homes.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, like Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, is a former police officer. Adams and Lee both took office last year, and they share one more thing in common – the daunting task of trying to solve a housing crisis in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

Adams’ solution is focused on rezoning unused offices into flats over the next decade as New York, like Hong Kong, faces a deepening housing affordability crisis at a time when offices are severely underused. Covid-19 upended the commercial real estate market, and the new normal of working from home has left vast amounts of office space dormant.

The New York City Office Adaptive Reuse Study was released in January, based on the findings of a study by a coalition of real estate professionals and government agencies. Dan Garodnick, chairman of the city’s planning commission, said in the study that: “As our important commercial districts evolve in response to the last two years, we want to ensure that outdated office buildings can be converted to more in-demand uses, such as desperately needed homes for New Yorkers.”

Lee can approach Hong Kong’s housing crisis in a similar manner. Abandoned and empty industrial buildings, schools and other public and private buildings can be rezoned for affordable public and private housing.

The central business districts of both New York and Hong Kong are islands. Together with their outlying areas, both contain many abandoned building spaces that can be repurposed for housing.

Hong Kong encourages the conservation of its large stock of more than 1,000 industrial buildings. This policy not only repurposes the buildings but reduces construction and demolition waste. One of the conditions requires that 10 per cent of the floor area of such conversions be allocated for “specific uses”.

These are generally aligned with community aspirations, such as the arts, culture, innovation and technology, social services, community healthcare, sports and recreation. But isn’t the greatest community aspiration affordable housing?

Updating zoning laws to repurpose the use of buildings is always challenging. However, because of the housing affordability and availability crisis in Hong Kong, it is imperative for the government to use its powers to make housing officials, developers, contractors and other vested interests fast-track new zoning regulations to allow for the timely conversion of non-functioning buildings to affordable housing.

It is long past time to streamline and expedite the delivery of housing in Hong Kong. To do so, the government should set up a fast track, one-stop special housing commission in the Chief Executive’s Office to search for viable alternatives to what is on offer today.

This commission would rationalise Hong Kong’s bureaucratic housing policies and regulations that primarily benefit contractors and developers rather than the people. It would bypass the numerous housing departments and agencies controlled by politically connected vested interests that have a chokehold on housing policies and perpetuate delays of viable long-term solutions.

This temporary emergency response commission would operate until the housing crisis is resolved and new policy and regulations are adopted to replace the existing bureaucratic tangle of housing departments, agencies and regulations. Lee should use his executive powers to enforce a housing policy for the people and deliver long-overdue affordable housing in a timely and cost-effective way.

The lack of public consultation on the most important issue confronting Hongkongers has to be addressed. Why not have public consultations and allow housing advocates and their experts to give testimony directly about the needs of inadequately housed residents instead of having facts primarily filtered and presented only by government agencies?

As Secretary for Development Bernadette Linn Hon-Ho said at a Legislative Council meeting in December, the government needs to balance the goal of improved efficiency with proper public participation.

Chief Executive John Lee visits a family living in a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po on July 30, 2022.

Lee can appoint an independent citizens complaint commission, similar to the Independent Police Complaints Council, for homebuyers and renters to lodge complaints against contractors, developers and landlords. He could also enforce the new rent control laws imposed on subdivided flats.

Executive powers can be adopted to convert rooms at Penny’s Bay and other Covid-19 isolation facilities to transitional housing for families and young working people who are Hong Kong’s future. Taxpayer money was used to build these facilities, so why not use them to house those in need?

Taking decisive action to end our housing crisis, including by repurposing vacant commercial buildings, would be a badge of honour for our chief executive.


Related Articles

Hong Kong News
It's always the people with the dirty hands pointing their fingers
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.