Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hong Kong's small house policy; unfair, ineffective, unnecessary, and threatens Hong Kong's most prized asset...

"The Small House Policy (SHP) (小型屋宇政策) was introduced in 1972 in Hong Kong. The objective was to improve the then prevailing low standard of housing in the rural areas of the New Territories. The Policy allows an indigenous male villager who is 18 years old and is descended through the male line from a resident in 1898 of a recognized village in the New Territories, an entitlement to one concessionary grant during his lifetime to build one small house"

The state of affairs in 2015
  • of Hong Kong's land mass is urban built
  • Of this urban built, is used for village land (13%)
  • There are a lot of "buildings" in villages which are not connected to sewer systems. Nearby stream are heavily polluted by the rubbish and waste products from the villages
  • According to the think-thank Civic-Exchange, there might be close to 100,000 individual with potential claim for the SHP
Unfair, unsustainable
  • It allows construction of a 3-storey house (27 ft. high) of up to 2100 sq. ft, over 700 sq. ft. of land, which, by Hong Kong standard, is a very large house., thereby creating a privileged group of citizen while the initial idea was to bring their housing standard up to a one which would be consistent with that of the majority of Hong Kong residents
  • The number of new potential applicants grows as more male villagers reach the age of 18, to be really low-density housing. Such an open-ended scheme obviously cannot be sustainable
Ineffective, abused, discriminatory
  • There is a large backlog of village house. It would be far more effective to reclaim that village land, build towns instead and allocate flats for the ex-villagers in medium to high-density towns
  • A large proportion of villagers sell their houses as soon as they can
  • Why men only? Why would some antiquated rule giving privileges to a few impact the lives of many?
What to do
  • Do not delay, abolish the policy and compensate the villagers. There will be a cost to it but incommensurate to the cost of building in country parks or continuing at the slow-pace of New Territories development
  • The Hong Kong government could, for example, immediately announce that eligibility stopped in 2015 and therefore, any villager not 18 at the time would not be eligible
  • "Hong Kong public wants contentious policy on rural housing overhauled", May 18th 2015, Ernest Kao, South China Morning Post
  • "Fixing the Small House Policy", September 9th, 2014,
  • "Rethinking the Small House Policy", Lisa Hopkinson and Mandy Lao Man Lei, September 2003, Civic Exchange.
  • "Small Houses, Big Effects: Public Opinion Survey on the Small House Policy", Michael E. DeGolyer, Mandy Lao Man-lei, Carine Lai, May 2015, Civic Exchange.
  • "The Small House Policy; A brief investigation on illegal structures in Hong Kong",