Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Heartfelt Thank You!

Sometimes it is little things that make your day.

This morning I got on the bus to come to work and my octopus card was negative. I only had a $500.00 bill and no change. Growl! This normally means riding the bus one stop, getting off, finding a 7-11, charging the card, waiting for another bus and then being late for work. However, when the bus driver saw I had no small bills he said in his best Engrish "OK you sit. OK" I guess he's paid by the hour so it really isn't any skin off his nose if he let's the occasional commuter with a negative card have a free ride But, I was still grateful. Thank You sir. Thank you very much.

Now to a little more grumpy subject.

There was a protest by public housing tenants on Sunday that really bothered me. They were protesting that the parking charges for their automobiles are being raised from HK $100.00 (USD $13.00) to HK $300.00 or $39 US dollars a month.

I can't afford a car. The parking where I live would cost $3500.00 a month and I'd still have to walk three blocks to the car. Why do people that are supposedly so poor that they can't afford housing given access to parking below where they live at 1/10 th the going rate? If they are so poor shouldn't they take mass transit? Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the world to drive in. Public housing tenants shouldn't need parking because if they can afford to drive here they shouldn't need public housing.

This brings up the whole issue of how public housing is done in Hong Kong and why it is problematic. Once someone gets a publicly rented flat they are almost never required to move out or give it up; even if they go on to attain great wealth. I vaguely know a couple (Friends of my wife) who started in public housing probably 30 years ago. They now own a factory and drive a jaguar and live in a big mansion in Melborne. They still rent the public housing flat and let a relative live in it "Just in case they go broke in the future" tenants can also pass a flat along to their children as an inheritance. Pardon me for seeing the potential for huge amount of abuse in such a system.

I find it appalling that better than 50% of Hong Kong residents live in some form of government housing. I have little doubt that because the government is always bending over and dropping its trousers for construction industry to keep the property market at an unnaturally high level most of the tenants of public housing projects could afford no where else to live. Indeed, the way the construction industry is allowed to screw the government here it is a wonder that every female in the Buildings and Lands department isn't carrying a baby fathered by Li Kai Shing. However, I also wonder if the assets and earnings of a significant percentage of public housing tenants were really looked at if it would not be found that they shouldn't be in public housing?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who thinks that the HK Housing Authority could do a better job


962 said...

There is no doubt that public housing is generally an excuse for a number of things, for example as you say why do tennants only pay 300 dollars per month for car parking. In an effort to resolve this issue without having to do anything the Link Reit was born. This has enable rents to be pushed up. Unfortunately the benefit has gone to the shareholders, who we can only assume are not the people who originally funded or continue to fund the Housing Authority which is the Hong Kong taxapayers. While a moment of dreaming indicates that taxpayers should have been given free shares there is no doubt that the HA has a lot of management to do in its organisation. It is full to the brim with Architects, apparently all of whom have a role to play in an organisation that generally builds standard blocks. However I would not hold your breath as like all government departments there is no interest in cutting staff and thus having a smaller budget if you sit at the top of the pile.
As to parking fees a short visit to a HA estste would indicate that 300 dollars is not enough especially as most of the cars are new and of good makes.
Charge them a 1000 dollars and let them protest Im sure the sympathy will be muted.
By the way a 100 dollars would not normally pay the rates in a private devcelopment

Fai Mao said...

I agree completely. I am also not denying the need for some form of public housing in Hong Kong. I do wonder why anyone would voluntarily live in the public housing flats here? They aren't very nice.