The Mongkok Fire and HK SAR Govt Attack On The Poor
in Hong Kong
The story features sub-divided flats and hawker stalls in a part of the city that wasn't featured in the CE's Chinese New Year's portrait of Hong Kong.
A remarkably well-done story by HK Magazine on the reaction of the HK SAR Government towards the hawkers. One thing it doesn't mention is the rationale for the long-term antagonism towards hawkers. Hawkers pay less rent and create competition in the retail space. This creates less profits for commercial landlords and retail outlets. Thankfully in HK the dominant commercial landlords ofter are also the owners of the dominant retail outlets. They also run the government. So much like the hostile takeover that resulted in The Link REIT, the attack on the hawkers is an attack on HK's lower-end residents displaying the Lion Rock spirit in favour of the rich, who are desperate to get richer.
On the other end of the problem are the sub-divided flats across Kowloon. These provide shelter for folks who are too cash poor to afford the larger up-front rents of the typical flat in a neighborhood with jobs for these folks.
This situation is the result of a couple of long-standing HK Government policies. First is a development policy which focuses almost exclusively on that zone displayed in the official CNY portrait of the territory: north-central HK island and the TST waterfront. This means that jobs in those areas of the territory with more affordable rents don't exist. And as the SCMP expose on Tin Shui Wai showed, this lack of development was not an accident but the official undisclosed policy deal made with the tycoons.
The next goes to the development of affordable housing in those areas that do provide jobs. This issue goes all of the way back to the creation of public housing in Hong Kong. Fine books on the time period that provide a great history and an antidote to the cotton candy historical narrative the HK Government likes to sell to its residents.
Three things to remember about the 50s squatter clearances: squatters paid higher rents per square foot than standard residents, the squatters land was of huge prospective value to developers, and the squatters were to be relocated to places far away from their jobs. All three of these are being repeated 60 years later very close to where those squatter fires broke out.
Today, the residents of sub-divided flats pay a smaller total rent per month, but they pay a higher rent per square foot than most in HK do. This higher rent per square foot though means that the price required by the major developers to buy out these flats is way beyond what they will pay once the flats have been cleared by the government. Thus the statement by the HK SAR government that partitioned flats hamper redevelopment.
Of course once these buildings have been redeveloped for the private profit of the tycoons, the current residents won't be able to afford to live in the neighborhood. And all current plans to move any qualifying members of the current residents to public housing will see them move far, far away from their current social situation, like jobs, friends, neighborhood hangouts, etc.
UPDATE: Forgot to combine two stories that have lingered in a blog editor on another computer.
In case you thought I was exaggerating the government's intentions, read the following SCMP article. HK SAR government says partitioned flats hamper renewal
The problem of subdivided flats is slowing down the redevelopment of urban Hong Kong, according to the organisation in charge of revamping the city.
When dealing with tenants of partition flats, the authority offers them either cash compensation or places in public housing estates. But there was a shortage of public housing in urban areas, Law said. "Tenants prefer to stay in the urban districts where they live. However, the supply of public housing in areas like Sham Shui Po is very limited. Thus it takes us much more time to settle with displaced tenants," he said.