英文

Editorial:A road map for getting rid of subdivided flats

【明報專訊】Outlining a long-term vision for Hong Kong's development, the central government expects the city to bid farewell to subdivided flats and cage homes and have the housing problem largely solved. This is not only the desire of Hong Kong society but also a non-negotiable demand the central government has issued to those who govern the city. The Chief Executive said the authorities treat finding land for housing as urgent a matter as "warfare" and they are in no comfortable state of mind — a far cry from the public's perception about what they have done. The authorities must face this perceptual discrepancy squarely. They must sincerely ask themselves whether they tune into the grassroots community, are connected to ordinary people's thoughts, are able to deliver what citizens want and have acted promptly to address citizens' pressing needs. Land and housing supply is the biggest perpetual problem in Hong Kong's development. Last year, more than 120,000 households in the entire city lived in substandard conditions. To fulfil the vision of getting rid of subdivided flats and cage homes, action must be taken now. The authorities must change their original mindset to shorten the land development time frame substantially and create land in a bold and resolute manner. The city's administrators must present a clear road map and establish goals in different stages together with a concrete timetable, and win people's trust through their performance in governance.

Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said that when the state achieves its goal for the second centenary in the middle of this century, Hong Kong's future will also be bright. "The current housing problem that troubles the people so much will definitely be overcome." For that purpose, the most vivid and concrete sign will be "bidding farewell to subdivided flats and cage homes". But Chief Executive Carrie Lam has described this vision as a "very far" one. In view of the time needed to find land for housing, the government will take a three-pronged approach in the short term to "help as much as possible" grassroots citizens who live in a relatively poor environment. They include building 15,000 units of transitional housing in two years, offering cash subsidies to households that have been on the waiting list for public rental housing for more than three years, and introducing rent control for subdivided flats.

Finding land for housing is not something that can be accomplished in one go. Still, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. According to the latest figures announced by the Housing Authority, the average waiting time for public housing is as long as 5.8 years. Hundreds of thousands of grassroots citizens are waiting for a unit on public housing estates. If the housing problem can be solved earlier, it will be addressing citizens' pressing needs and resolving their difficulties.

Of the five demands raised by Xia to Hong Kong's administrators, one is to do practical things properly for the people and have a "people first" mentality when serving the community. They need to tune into the grassroots community and get connected to ordinary people's thoughts, and gain people's trust through their performance in governance. Xia's remarks are in essence a reminder that the team governing Hong Kong and top officials must stay away from red tape.

For the city to overcome its housing problem and bid farewell to subdivided flats and cage homes, there must be a clear road map. Not only should there be a clear set of medium-term goals, but there should also be a working plan for four to five years so as to make sure that continued efforts are made in accordance with the schedule. At the same time, fixed parameters should also be set for all the related measures of reform. The time frame for land development, for example, should be shortened. According to the government's existing procedures, a "potential site" must be turned into a "disposable site" through legal procedures before housing can be built on a piece of land. The time it takes can be as long as 20 years. The authorities should first set a specific goal. They can, for example, shorten the entire development time frame to within eight to 10 years. Then they should look into the different steps concerned to see how to shorten the time needed.

明報社評2021.07.20:告別劏房須路線圖 不容官僚主義誤事

中央勾勒香港發展長遠願景,告別劏房籠屋、極大改善房屋問題,既是香港社會所欲,亦是中央對治港者的硬要求。行政長官表示,當局視覓地建屋如「行軍打仗」,並非好整以暇,可是普羅大眾觀感卻很不一樣,當局需要正視這一落差,撫心自問是否貼基層接地氣,做到想市民所想、急市民所急。土地房屋問題是香港發展最大痼疾,去年全港居於環境欠佳旳住戶數目超過12萬,要令告別劏房籠屋的願景成真,現在就得着手去幹,當局必須改變既有思維,顯著壓縮土地開發流程,大刀闊斧造地。治港者必須拿出明確路線圖,制訂分階段目標和具體時間表,以施政業績取信於民。

國務院港澳辦主任夏寶龍期盼,本世紀中葉當國家「第二個百年」目標實現時,香港亦是一片光明,「現在大家揪心的住房問題必將得到改善」,「告別劏房籠屋」是最形象化和具體的標誌。行政長官林鄭月娥表示,這個願景「好遠」,鑑於覓地建屋需時,政府短期內會三管齊下,「盡量協助」居住環境較惡劣的基層市民,包括兩年內興建1.5萬間過渡房屋、為輪候公屋逾3年家庭發放現金津貼,以及管制劏房租金等。

覓地建屋無法一蹴而就,然而千里之行,始於足下。根據房委會最新數字,公屋平均輪候時間長達5.8年,數十萬基層市民等待上樓,居住問題早一天解決,就是急市民所急、解市民所困。

夏寶龍談到治港者五項要求,其一是善於為民眾辦實事,樹立「市民至上」服務意識,貼基層、接地氣,以施政業績取信於民,其實就是提醒治港班子和高官必須遠離官僚主義、形式主義。

香港要解決房屋問題、告別劏房籠屋,就要有一個明確路線圖,既要有清晰的中期目標,也要有為期4、5年的工作計劃,確保按照進度向前推進。與此同時,各項相應改革措施,例如壓縮土地開發程序,也要定下一些硬指標。根據政府現行程序,「生地」通過法定程序變成「熟地」再建成房屋,隨時要接近20年,當局應先訂下具體目標,例如將整個發展程序,縮短在8至10年之內,再看看每個環節,可以怎樣縮短時間。

■Glossary 生字

a far cry from sth : a very different experience from sth

pressing : needing to be dealt with immediately

in one go : all together on one occasion

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