Single-person applicant waits 10 years for shared-kitchen “Senior Housing” unit, expresses disappointment, netizens criticise subpar living conditions

Similar Senior Housing unit with shared toilets in Sai Wan Ho.

30th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) In the current situation, the average waiting time for public housing is 5.3 years, with some non-elderly applicants having to wait for over 30 years. Recently, a netizen shared a post expressing their frustration after waiting for 10 years for a single-person public housing unit, only to be assigned a “Senior Housing” unit in Pak Tin Estate. The netizen described it as a huge disappointment and immediately rejected the offer. Some netizens even commented that it was worse than subdivided flats, as those flats have independent kitchens and bathrooms.

The female netizen posted her experience on a Facebook group called “Public Housing Discussion Forum.” She mentioned that she had been on the waiting list as a non-elderly applicant for approximately 10 years before receiving a housing allocation notification from the Housing Department. The second offer she received was a unit in Pak Tin Estate’s Shui Tin House, classified as a “Senior Housing” unit. The monthly rent for one person was HK$1,184, inclusive of water charges. However, the unit did not have an independent kitchen, and she would have to share the kitchen and dining area with neighbours. Fearing the prospect of sharing facilities with strangers, she expressed great disappointment and stated, “I immediately rejected the offer after opening the letter.”

The applicant also expressed confusion about being allocated a “Senior Housing” unit, as she was only 58 years old and not yet considered a senior citizen. On the same day, another netizen received a similar offer for an “elderly unit” in Shui Tin House and criticised the situation, asking if there had been a mistake and whether rejecting the offer would count as two allocations. Concerns were raised by netizens regarding the living conditions in such units, likening them to living in a “nursing home” or “university dormitory.” Many netizens supported the applicant’s decision to reject the offer promptly, stating that shared spaces could be inconvenient and the hygiene situation might not be ideal. However, some netizens believed that living in a “Senior Housing” unit could have its benefits, suggesting that shared spaces could foster a communal living environment and provide support from neighbours. They advised the applicant to visit the unit’s floor and observe the living environment before making a final decision.

One netizen, who had been allocated a “Senior Housing” unit, disagreed and pointed out that subdivided flats could have independent kitchens and bathrooms, finding it difficult to accept the idea of sharing facilities in public housing. The unit allocated to the applicant in Pak Tin Estate’s Shui Tin House falls under the category of “Senior Housing” built by the Housing Authority. According to Housing Department data, “Senior Housing” was initially designed for single elderly applicants. However, due to the preference of public rental housing applicants for independent units in the late 1990s, the vacancy rate for “Senior Housing” remained high. As a result, the Housing Authority ceased construction of “Senior Housing” in 2000 and removed the age restriction for occupancy in 2001, aiming to lease out the vacant “Senior Housing” units as much as possible.

Most “Senior Housing” units require shared kitchens, and the facilities within the units vary. In response to the decreasing demand for this type of dormitory-style accommodation, the Housing Authority has been gradually converting the high vacancy rate “Senior Housing” units with shared bathrooms into regular public housing units since 2006.

According to Housing Department records, in the past five years, over 1,000 applicants annually accepted the allocation of “Senior Housing” units but later rejected it. In the 2021/22 fiscal year, among the applicants who were assigned “Senior Housing” units without participating in the Express Flat Allocation Scheme, only 3% accepted the allocation. This indicates the high level of unpopularity for such units.