【2019ICN】葉毅民/快速轉變世界中的青年住居:香港案例給東亞國家的啟發

文:葉毅民香港城市大學公共政策學系房屋與都市研究教授

全世界許多大都會的房價都遠超過多數一般人能力所及;擁有最昂貴地產的香港,也許是住屋負擔的極端。

一項粗略的房價指標比較顯示,香港城市收入中位數的家戶,必須付出將近整整二十年的收入,才買得起一間平均單價水平的六十平方公尺小公寓。這情況比已開發國家其他城市都更加嚴峻;此一情況下,青年人受創最深。他們不僅要背負大量貸款的還款壓力,超高頭期款要求(目前約為房價的四至五成)也將絕大多數年輕首購族擠下買房天梯。少數高收入青年專業人士,即便能夠撐起常態貸款還款的負擔,仍舊需要有財力的父母支援頭期款。對多數青年世代來說,擁房成了無法企及的渴望。多數人仍與父母同住,有些已組成家庭的人仍舊如此。

對其他想建立家庭或獨立生活的人來說,租屋是唯一選項。然而由於新屋供給量停滯,外來學生與專業勞工湧入,民間租屋市場也相當緊繃。民間租屋市場的租金水平隨著房價飆升。多數追求獨立生活的單身青年,都無法負擔獨戶公寓房租;即便雙薪的年輕夫妻也發現房租高不可攀。因此市場中出現了有衛浴的小型板間房,經常不過是個床位的空間,以降低住宿成本。這類稱為「劏房」(正式名稱為「分間樓宇單位(SDU)」)的隔間公寓,在過去十年大量出現,現在住有將近二十萬人。事實上,以單位租金來說,這些貧窮區域破舊樓房中的板間房租金,經常超越了好區的高級公寓。然而幾乎所有板間房都是非法改造,對房客造成消防與衛生安全問題;而許多板間房客都是年輕人。

同時間,青年人的住房壓力也反映在公屋申請件數上。香港擁有世界上數一數二的公租住宅數量,以照顧最窮困的三分之一人口的需求。近年來,公租宅的等待家戶數已經到達三十萬戶(2017年達到巔峰)。半數申請人為單身非年長族群,單身申請人中半數年齡低於二十五歲,許多人已經取得或正在取得高等教育文憑。這是一記警鐘;這些受過高等教育的年輕人多數並不符合公共宅的資格,因為單身戶收入限制為全市平均薪資的三分之二。他們畢業後若能找到工作,薪資不大可能這麼低。因此,這種居住挫折的現象中,公共住宅被視為最後的解決手段。

然而,從宏觀角度來看,所謂的青年世代住屋負擔危機早已有跡可循。

當全球化加速職業與收入的兩極化,青年世代卻被推向不穩定的就業、職涯發展與收入,雖然這一代的青年通常比父母世代擁有較高的教育成就。

不穩定的狀態進一步遭到財富差距拉大的激化,資本積累財富的速度遠高於收入。因此早年取得房屋資產的人,此刻在財富積累上更具優勢。

在此背景下,本篇報告試圖在青年居住議題的全球脈絡下,特別著重香港案例,討論青年難以承受的住宅負擔。 回應國際間關於青年住居議題的新思考脈絡,本報告認為應該重新省思住宅作為商品的想法;住宅在家庭生命循環中的角色;以及社會快速轉變、城市國家間高度流動時代中的國家住居政策。本報告將由國際間青年居住相關文獻討論及已開發世界青年住居問題著手。接著簡短檢視香港青年世代的居住現況,並運用作者過去數年收集的資料,進一步延伸討論香港青年住居的特殊議題。最後總結將重新思考住居需求,家庭生命循環中的住居與職涯路徑,以及國家在住居議題中的角色,並提出供其他東亞國家參考的啟發。



Young People Housing in a rapidly changing world – the case of Hong Kong and Insights for East Asian Countries

Ngai Ming YIP, Urban Research Group, Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

House prices are beyond the reach of most ordinary people in many metropolitans around the world. As a city with the priciest housing, Hong Kong is perhaps at the extreme of housing unaffordability. A rough comparative indicator in housing price reveals that a household in Hong Kong whose income was at the median level of the city had to devote nearly a full twenty years of its income in buying a small flat of 60 square meters at the average unit price. This is far worse than all cities in the developed world. In this respect, young people are hit the most. Not only would they have to bear the burden of repayment of a huge mortgage loan, the superhigh downpayment requirement, currently at forty to fifty percent of the house value, would have excluded the overwhelming majority of young first-time buyers from the homeownership ladder.  Even the small minority of high paid young professionals who are capable of overcoming the burden of regular mortgage repayment need to get financial help from their resourceful parents to pay for the downpayment.

For the majority of the young generation, homeownership becomes an unreachable aspiration. Most of them remain in the parental home, some even after they have formed their family. For others, renting is their only option if they setup their own family or choose to live independently. Yet with the stagnation of the supply of new housing, influx of students and imported professional labour from out of the city, the private rental market is also under stress. The level of private housing sector rent rises in pace with the escalation of house price. Rents of a self-contained small flats are unaffordable for most young singles who aspire independent living. Even young couples with double earnings would find such level a high burden. Hence the market reacts by creating small en suite cubicle rooms, often literally not much larger than a bed-space, in order to reduce of the cost of the accommodation. Such bed-space apartments, dubbed “split-rooms” (officially called sub-divided units SDU), proliferated in the last decade and now are homes to nearly 200,000 people. In fact, many of these split-rooms, often in dilapidated buildings in poor neighbourhoods, surpasses the rent level of luxurious apartment in nice neighbourhoods in term of unit rent. Yet nearly all such split-rooms are being converted illegally and impose high fire and hygiene risks to the renters, many of them are young people. At the same time, housing stress felt by young people is also reflected at the number of application to public housing. Hong Kong has one of the highest level of public rental housing in the world which caters for the poorest one-third of the population. In recent years, the queue for public rental housing had reached 300,000 households (which peaked in 2017). Half of these applicants are single non-elderlies and amongst these single person applicants, half of them are below the age of 25, many of them have completed or are completing higher education qualifications. This is in fact an alarming signal as most of these highly educated young people should not be eligible for public housing as the income limit for single person households is set at only two thirds of the average wage of the city. If they were able to find a job after graduation, it is very unlikely the wage level would be so low. Hence, this may be an expression of the frustration on housing and public housing is regarded as housing of the last resort. However, from a macro perspective, this so-called affordability crisis for the young generation has well been expected. As globalisation has accelerated the polarisation of both occupation and income, the young generation has been pushed to precarity in employment, career advancement and income despite they generally have a higher education achievement than their parents’ generation. Such precarious position is further exacerbated by the growing gap in wealth in which capital accumulates wealth at a much quicker pace than income. Hence those who were able to acquire asset in the form of housing at earlier years are much advantageous in the accumulation of wealth now.

Within such a backcloth, this presentation attempts to unveil the issue of housing unaffordability of young people against the global context of young people housing with particular reference to Hong Kong. Echoing a new line of thinking internationally on housing for young people, this presentation argues for a rethink of housing as commodity, its role in the family life cycle as well as state policy on housing in the era of rapid social transformation and high degree of mobility within and between cities and countries. This presentation will begin by a review of the international literature of housing for the young people and the problem of housing faced by young people in the developed world. It will be followed by a brief overview of housing situation of young people in Hong Kong. Specific issues of housing for young people in Hong Kong will be further elaboration using data collected by the author in the last few years. The presentation will conclude by a discussion of a rethink on housing aspiration, housing career trajectories in the family life cycle as well as the role of the state on housing and likely insights for countries in East Asia.