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Asia Minute: Tackling Hong Kong’s Affordable Housing Crunch

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It’s a city on the water, where tourism plays an important role and housing costs have spiraled beyond affordability for many residents. But government officials are floating new ideas to deal with the housing crisis. The city is not Honolulu, but Hong Kong. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

There’s no dispute that housing costs across Hawai‘i have pushed affordability out of reach for many people, especially in recent years. But for the last eight years in a row, an international survey has found the least affordable housing market in the world is Hong Kong.

Many of the reasons are familiar to Hawai‘i residents – limited supply and heavy demand.

But Hong Kong has also seen a massive inflow of private investment in housing from mainland China—pushing prices even higher. The situation has become so severe that some of the most popular small apartments are even tinier than single-room studios. Real estate agents call them “nano-flats”—living spaces of less than 200 square feet.

A government task force is considering a series of alternate proposals.

The Independent reports they include refurbishing old tenement buildings into communal living spaces like dormitories. Also under consideration: reclaiming more land from Hong Kong harbor for apartment construction.

Credit Maersk Line / Wikimedia Commons
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Port of Hong Kong

One of the more radical suggestions:  moving Hong Kong’s container ship port to another location—or constructing housing on giant platforms above the waterfront cranes.

Most of those ideas still remain very much in the stages of potential solutions; requiring much further exploration before they get any public funding.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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