英文

Editorial:Transitional Housing Policy Needs To Be Optimised

【明報專訊】As the number of public housing units completed over the next couple of years is to be outstripped by the demand, transitional housing has become a short-term palliative measure. The previous administration announced that it had found enough land to build 20,000 units within three years. The current administration is even considering ways to boost the supply of units by increasing the number of storeys of those buildings.

The average waiting time for public housing is as long as six years. If the government does not think of ways to cope with the shortfall in housing supply, it might not even be able to prevent the waiting time from lengthening. The amount of public housing to be completed over the next five years will depend on the amount of land developed in the previous five years. The current administration has emphasised housing construction "at greater speed and in greater volume". Its success cannot be measured until after another five years have passed at the earliest. In contrast, transitional housing requires shorter building time. As long as land is available, such housing can be completed and taken in residents within about a year in theory. As of June this year, more than 5,200 transitional housing units had gone into service. For the government, transitional housing has become a short-term palliative measure. For grassroots citizens, it is always better to live in transitional housing than in subdivided flats.

The first transitional housing project was "Nam Cheong 220" in Sham Shui Po. The land was lent by a private developer in 2017. Construction work began in the third quarter of 2019, and residents moved in the following summer. Nearly 100 households had to move out at the end of this month due to the expiration of the land lease, having lived in the flats for less than two years. Only 25% of the households were offered a public housing unit timely, and nearly 60% of them had to move to transitional housing in Yuen Long and other regions. Around ten households were unwilling to relocate to a remote region because of livelihood needs and, as a result, could only return to the private market and start to live in subdivided flats again. It is true that the construction of "Nam Cheong 220", a pioneer project, was delayed by more than two years, and the situation is rather unique. However, given the fact that the supply of public housing remains unlikely to improve significantly until six or seven years later, if a project's land lease is short, situations in which tenants have to move out before long will be more likely than imagined. For residents who are treated like "human balls", the feeling is absolutely not nice.

To solve the housing problem of grassroots people once and for all, it is necessary to speed up land construction for the building of public housing. Transitional housing is a palliative measure that does not tackle the root cause. The government should not get the priorities wrong in terms of land and housing policies and the use of resources. The purpose of transitional housing is to provide relatively livable housing units for people waiting for public housing so that they do not need to languish in subdivided flats. With tens of thousands of units to be completed in the next few years, it is necessary for the authorities to put more effort into cost control and strive to focus on the practical rather than esthetic side of these flats. At present, there are more than 30 NGOs involved in the development of transitional housing. Some of them have limited human and physical resources, and they do not have a deep understanding of housing design and construction. False starts are therefore likely. One example is the "House of Pipes" project at Tsuen Wan, which was shelved because practical issues of the design had not been taken into consideration. The construction of transitional housing should be led by experienced agencies such as the government or the Housing Society before the flats are handed over to NGOs for operation after completion. This will help unify standards and lead to more effective control of costs and quality, and is obviously a more ideal practice.

明報社評 2022.09.22:優化過渡房屋政策 控制成本實而不華

未來數年公屋落成量不敷需求,過渡房屋成為了短期「止痛劑」,上屆政府宣布覓得足夠土地,3年內興建2萬個單位,現屆政府更考慮以加高層數等方法,增加單位供應。

現時公屋平均輪候時間長達6年,當局若不設法應付眼前房屋供應斷層,恐怕連阻止輪候時間延長也做不到。未來5年公屋落成量,取決於之前5年造地情况。現屆政府強調「提速提量」建屋,成效如何,最快也要到下一個5年才能檢驗。相比之下,過渡房屋建造時間短,只要有現成土地,理論上一年左右就能落成入伙。截至今年6月,投入服務的過渡房屋單位超過5200個。對政府而言,過渡房屋已成為「短期止痛藥」,而對基層市民來說,能夠入住過渡房屋,始終比劏房為佳。

位於深水埗的首個過渡房屋項目「南昌220」,私人發展商2017年借出土地,2019年第三季動工,翌年夏天入伙。近百戶未住滿兩年,便因為借地期滿,須於本月底搬走,當中只有兩成半住戶及時上樓,近六成要遷往元朗等地的過渡房屋,約10戶因為生活需要不願搬到偏遠地區,結果只能重返私人市場,包括再住劏房。誠然,「南昌220」作為先驅項目,延宕兩年多才動工,情况較為特殊,但考慮到公屋供應量6、7年後才有機會顯著改善,倘若項目借地期偏短,日後出現「未住暖就要搬出」的情况,可能比想像多,居民被當人球,絕不好受。

解決基層居住問題,加快造地興建公屋,才是釜底抽薪之道,過渡房屋治標不治本,政府在土地房屋政策和資源運用上,切勿捨本逐末。過渡房屋旨在為等候上樓市民,提供相對宜居單位,毋須蝸居劏房,隨着未來數年將有數以萬計單位落成,當局有必要在成本控制方面多下工夫,力求實而不華。目前參與過渡房屋發展的非政府組織超過30個,部分機構人力物力有限,對於房屋設計及建築,認識也不深,容易走「冤枉路」,荃灣「水管屋」設計因忽略實際問題最終擱置,正是一例。由政府或房協等經驗豐富的機構主導過渡房屋興建,落成後才交由非政府組織營運,有助統一標準,更有效控制成本與質素,做法明顯較為理想。

/ Glossary 生字 /

palliative:designed to make a difficult situation seem better without actually solving the cause of the problems

strive:to try very hard to achieve sth

shelve:to decide not to continue with a plan, either for a short time or permanently

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