Worse than the SARS times

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the recently announced Quality of Life Index for 2009 is the lowest in six years, worse than in 2003 when the city was condemned to utter hopelessness and panic because of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak. Two indicators that were most telling were the increased rate of infectious disease and the drop in the housing affordability ratio.

Regarding the latter, the researcher said: “The average property price of a 400-square-foot apartment in Kowloon is actually eight years’ average household income.”

What that essentially means is that for the average household, a whole month’s income buys you about four square feet of living space – and that is only assuming that every single penny is spent on the purchase. Given that, to be on the safe side, a family should spend no more than half of the household income on mortgage, that means they can buy no more than two square feet of living space per month. It takes an average Hong Kong family 16 years to be able to call that 400-square-feet apartment their own.

And how much money are we actually talking about here? According to the General Household Survey, the median monthly domestic household income for the fourth quarter of 2009 was HKD17,500. The average price of a 400-square-foot apartment in Kowloon, which is worth eight years' income, is about HKD1,680,000, which means about HKD4,200 per square foot.
"You're seeing university students applying for public housing now," the researcher said. "That hasn't happened in the past."

Again, this is hardly surprising, in a city where a few property tycoons are wielding so much power and the government is so impotent.

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