In light of the recent reports and focus on McRefugees, we decided to extend beyond this phenomenon to problems of land and housing supply in Hong Kong. Many homeless have been sheltering in McDonalds across Asia, and fortunately McDonalds have adopted an open and embracive attitude. However, unknown to many in Hong Kong, there is actually a ‘right to adequate housing’ stated under the International Bill of Human rights. This refers to having sufficient facilities, water and electricity, as well as keeping housing expenditure below 30% of income.
There is a general misconception in Hong Kong that 地少人多 is the prime factor for shortages in housing supply. However, reports show that land for residential purpose only account to 6.9% of land, while 66.5% of land are greenlands or mountains etc. Nonetheless, the situation is not as simple because many of the unexploited areas are actually not ideal for development, or simply too far from city centre, lacking transportation infrastructure and at a distance from Hong Kong’s economic hub. Therefore, Hong Kong does not lack land in terms of area. Rather, there is a shortage of land for development.
With regards to shortages in housing supply, we adopted a comparative approach. We compared population density of Hong Kong and other major cities. We also looked into different housing units in Hong Kong, from subdivided units to rooftop houses, and watched videos that gave a more accurate and realistic representation. Our aim was to remind ourselves that although Hong Kong has developed into a major financial city, it is important not to forget that not everyone is benefitted. There are still many suburbs that are underdeveloped.
We conducted a mini quiz, to correspond locations that are new development areas and new towns. It revealed how some particular areas are actually less familiar to many, which shows the need for government to do more to develop these areas.
Responding to tension in land supplies, the government needs to take more action. We discussed several approaches that are favourable. Apart from traditional plans of urban renewal and land reclamation, the government should re-assess land usage and to accelerate the building of infrastructure and transport in order to increase the potential of surrounding land. Furthermore, the government should attempt to achieve a more balanced ratio when allocating land between public and private housing. For example, in The Development North East New Territories, 80% of land is designated to private housing projects. Moreover, there needs to be more interaction and communication between the government and people, preventing under-table practice.
In conclusion, the awareness on ‘the right to adequate housing’ should be raised as it is an important fundamental human right. We should pay more attention and change our mindset that Hong Kong lacks land for development, and not land in general. The government needs to take a more interventionist approach to solve land supply issues, in some cases compromising business and commercial development to a certain extent.