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Housing pressure forces Hongkongers to leave

Wong Chun-yip moved to London from Hong Kong with his wife in 2019. They have just bought a house in the city. In Hong Kong, where housing prices are among the highest in the world, owning an apartment was something the 37-year-old could hardly imagine.

"I am a freelance writer with a very unstable income. It was too much of a struggle to rent a flat and support my family on a basic salary of $37.5 per hour in Hong Kong. The high property prices gave me no hope," Wong said.

Hong Kong ranked the least affordable housing market for the 12th consecutive year in 2022. Hongkongers can expect to work up to 23 years before they can buy their first home, according to Demographia’s International Housing Affordability report.

High housing prices were one of the reasons that drove Wong to leave. He said it was a difficult decision because his family and friends are in Hong Kong, but he had no better option.

Wong’s wife Celia Tam, said that in the UK she often invites friends to her home. She could not do so in Hong Kong because of the lack of space.
Wong says he now has a "real life" in London, while in Hong Kong it was more like making a living.

Data from the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce showed that 27% of Hong Kong people moved to foreign cities for a better quality of life in 2005.

“It is much easier to buy an apartment in the UK than in Hong Kong,” Wong said. 

According to the latest data from Numbeo, a global statistical database, it is twice as expensive to buy an apartment in Hong Kong as it is in London. The cost per square metre of an apartment in central Hong Kong is HK$249,000, compared to an average of HK$115,000 in London. However, the average monthly net salary (after tax) was HK$23,637.69 in Hong Kong, while HK$26,333.14 in the UK.

Wong also said that many of his friends in Hong Kong thought about leaving because of political issues and to seek a better future.

Poon Tat-hang, the vice-president of the Hong Kong Real Estate Agencies General Association said they are getting more inquiries on overseas home ownership, especially after 2019. 

“Housing demand for overseas properties is on the rise due to the current migration trend,” said Poon.

Government figures show that Hong Kong’s population has been declining for three consecutive years since 2020. 

More than 113,000 residents left the city in the past year. The population has dropped from 7.41 million to 7.29 million in 2021, according to the latest figures from Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department.

“It is difficult for Hong Kong people to buy an apartment, let alone a second one. Policies such as the stamp duty, which is a 15% on a second property, are a big deterrent to home ownership,” Poon said.

He added that British real estates appreciated faster than Hong Kong, and that the pound has been  depreciating recently, so that more Hong Kongers are thinking of buying property in Britain. 

Or Chong-shing, a member of the Hong Kong Housing Authority and Subsidised Housing Committee, said that the supply of housing has lagged behind demand in Hong Kong for decades. 

“There are around 100,000 subdivided flats in Hong Kong. At the same time, the population living in subdivided flats has more than doubled to 200,000 since 2016,” Or said. 


Or hopes that Hong Kong chief executive Lee Ka-chiu's first policy address, to be released on October 19, 2022, will focus on Hong Kong's housing problem.

Or said he believes the government is doing its best to address the problem, in terms of agreements, laws and the actual situation.

According to the annual report on the Long-Term Housing Strategy in 2020, the government expects to provide 428,000 more units of housing by the end of 2032.

"I believe that the first five years of this plan should be calculably stable under government management," said Or. "However, the government should pay more attention to this plan in the next five years because it seems to have too much uncertainty, including the policies, at the moment."

Or said that the housing problem in Hong Kong will remain serious despite the emigration wave.

He suggested that community isolation facilities meant for Covid quarantine can be used as transitional housing to alleviate the pressing housing needs.
Wong said he does not have many friends in London yet, but he does not regret leaving Hong Kong because he likes the slow pace of life and low housing pressure in the UK.

“The biggest trouble is loneliness. But things are getting better as time goes by,” Wong said.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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