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Hong Kong’s real problem is not shortage of homes, but affordability of homes

Source: SCMP, Oct 5 2016

Author: Jake Van Der Kamp

I greatly respect Richard Wong’s scholarship in housing matters but sometimes I think he should take a year away from that pristine university environment and become an estate agent in the trenches of the property market.

In my view the housing shortage is a misnomer and he has ignored interest rates, the real driving force of property prices.

First, that housing shortage. There is none. We had one in the 1970s when up to 20 per cent of the population lived in squatter huts. But thanks to public housing and a big private development push these squatter towns are now gone. With only a few scattered exceptions, all holders of permanent ID cards live in formal homes.

Yes, I recognise that some people live in squalid sub-divided flats. I am sorry for them but the large majority are migrants without permanent status. Our social services cannot bear full responsibility for everyone who takes a whim to moving here.

Read more: http://www.scmp.com/business/global-economy/article/2025354/hong-kongs-real-problem-not-shortage-homes-affordability

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Every day, thousands ride Earth’s longest escalator system

Source: BBC, Sep 29 2016

Author: Christopher DeWolf

It’s late on a Friday morning in Hong Kong and the call to prayer rings and drifts out from the century-old gates of the Jamia Mosque, merging with the mechanical click-click of another local landmark: the Central to Mid-Levels Escalator Link. It is the world’s longest outdoor escalator system, which connects Hong Kong’s central business district with the upscale residential streets of the Mid-Levels.

While many think of escalators as department store mainstays, in Hong Kong, they’re a go-to mode of public transport: The sprawling Mid-Levels Escalator Link shuttles over 80,000 commuters per day.

On this Friday morning, one South Asian congregant, dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks, says he takes the escalator to the mosque every week for Friday prayers. “It’s very convenient,” he says, before washing his feet for prayer.

Twelve hours later, it’s a different scene entirely. A roar of music and conversation escapes from the bars of Soho, a once-quiet neighbourhood that morphed into a nightlife zone after the link opened in 1993. People glide up the escalator as if on a carnival ride: pre-clubbing twentysomethings clutching cans of beer, well-coiffed cocktail types, weary office workers looking to forget their long hours of overtime.

The sprawling Mid-Levels Escalator Link shuttles over 80,000 commuters per day.

Hilly cities have always found novel ways to transport their citizens up inhospitable terrain. San Francisco has its cable cars, Lyon its funiculars (cable railways that scale cliffs). In recent years, South American cities like Medellín, Rio de Janeiro and La Paz have built aerial lifts to reach poor neighbourhoods high in the hills.

Hong Kong, however, was the first city to embrace the escalator as a form of public transportation — though its glory days as a transit solution may well be over.

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20160929-thousands-ride-worlds-longest-escalator

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Australia’s first flat-packed, off-grid home could help solve housing affordability problem

Source: Domain, Oct 1 2016

Authors: Kate Burke, Nicole Frost

Australians could soon be able to build their own home in just a few days thanks to a flat-packed, off-grid house that could be the solution to housing sustainability and affordability.

The tiny home, which measures 13.75 square metres, arrives on the back of a trailer and can be put together by inexperienced builders using just a hammer and a drill.

Founder and architect Alexander Symes said the portable property, which he has described as “Ikea on steroids”, could act as a transitional housing product that bridges the gap between renting and home ownership.

Australia’s first flat-packed, off-grid tiny home is affordable and rethinks the way people live.

“We’re looking at a transitionary housing product to essentially take people who would always be left renting and give them an affordable property to stay in while saving for their first deposit,” he said.

The modular home, which is priced at $65,000, comes completely fitted out with a living room, bed, running water and bathroom and is completely self-sufficient, with solar panels providing electricity and running water sourced from inbuilt rainwater tanks.

Symes said the biggest challenge in creating a DIY flat-pack home was making sure the panels were light enough for a person to lift, but still structurally sound and weatherproof.

Big World Homes founder and architect Alexander Symes.

The Big World Homes, which are made of plywood and polycarbonate plastic, are designed to be placed on unused development sites or vacant land, where home owners or tenants can come together to create communities.

“We want to engage with councils and property developers to make better use of unused land that might not be going to be developed for years,” Symes said.

“The idea is that we could potentially engage with those land owners to create a temporary caravan park of sorts so that there is governance and procedures and effectively someone might rent a plot within that pop-up community for their tiny home.”

Read more: http://www.domain.com.au/news/australias-first-flatpacked-offgrid-home-could-help-solve-housing-affordability-problem-20160929-grry6h/

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Mainlanders drive up home prices

Source: The Standard, Sep 30 2016

The media have started reporting about record prices achieved for properties in Hong Kong’s secondary housing market, as more and more mainland investors invest in the SAR. Other than this, there was no major local news.

The local housing market has nearly recovered fully after the 15-20 percent drop in prices since last October. Morgan Stanley favors Sun Hun Kai Properties (0016), Wharf (0004) and Link REIT (0823), while Goldman Sachs likes Cheung Kong Property (1113) and Swire Properties (1972).

Value Partners (0806) is one of the most successful local fund management firms over the past 20 years. Chairman Cheah Cheng-hye said now is the best time to buy Chinese stocks.

Read more: http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=174577

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Mortgage plans launched

Source: The Standard, Sep 30 2016

Hong Kong Credit Corporation yesterday said it is launching two new mortgage plans with Centaline Mortgage Broker.

The broker is a subsidiary of Centaline Property. Under the first plan, up to 90 percent for homes worth less than HK$8 million and as much as 80 percent for units priced less than HK$12 million can be loaned.

In the second plan, a mortgage of up to 80 percent of the home price can be given without conducting a pressure test. The test measures a borrower’s ability to repay the loan on time. Repayment period for both plans is 30 years, with an interest rate of P-2 percent and P-1 percent respectively. The prime rate now stands at 5.25 percent.

“We launched these mortgage plans to attract more first-time buyers and those who would like to change homes,” said said Ivy Wong Mei-feng, managing director of Centaline Mortgage Broker.

Read more: http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=174593

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