By Tsui Oi Ling & Lam Kwan Lin

The Hong Kong Government launched Youth Hostel Program during its 2012 Policy Address. It targets Hong Kong citizens 18 to 30 year olds, and is opened to singles and couples. The hostels charge an estimated 60 percent of the median rent in Hong Kong.

It often offers a cheaper choice of accommodation for young people, and is aimed at helping them manage their income for saving for their future, especially for purchasing their own apartment.

This past March, the hostel in Tai Po from Hong Kong Federation was approved by the Home Affairs Bureau, it is the first approval throughout these years since the program was launched.

It took three and a half year to start the program and it is currently in the first stage. It is estimated to be completed in 2018 and offers 78 apartments. Initially the project was to offer 3,000 units.

“The major problem of delaying the project is finding the contruction site.” said Mr. Chris Chung Shun-Kun(right), the legislative council member. “ As the project is forbidden to use new land to build the hostel, so reconctruction of a old building is the best way for running this programme. So I am trying very hard to deal with a NGO for building an Youth Hostel at the East Hong Kong Island.” For a small place like Hong Kong, urban planning and limited amount of useable land are the major challenges.

The Sheung Wan constrution sit of the hotsel of Tung Hua Group of Hospitals is to turn a vacant school into a 21-storey tower hostel, but its location, right next to a 169-year-old Chinese temple on Hollywood Road. This arouses the oppsition from the heritage conservationists.

Mr Lam, the Home Affairs Executive Officer, said that the department has been overseeing the hostel program since 2012. He understands that Hong Kong residents are concerned about the slow starts of the project. However, he said the department plans to take steps to implement the Tai Po project first, and there are five more projects in the pipeline.

For example, the hostel of Tung Hua Group of Hospitals in Sheung Wan and the hostel of Hong Kong Association of Youth Development in Mong Kok. Lam also mentioned that the hostel environment is better than the sub-divided flats because the equipment is renewable.

Mr. Yuen thinks the government is not giving adequate information about the program to the public. “Actually what do the hostels look like? What is the actual rental price? How big is it? I don’t think the government has provided enough details.” said Mr. Yuen, a 24 years old housing maintenance officer. The Home Affairs Department responded that the rent is around HK$2,200 per month. These 5 projects can provide thousands of flats for youngsters to apply. The hostel does not aim at solving housing problem because it does not involve buying and selling. It only provides the apartment for youngsters to rent and aims at help- ing them save money. The Home Affairs Department wishes that youngsters can live with themselves. The association can set deadline to decide whether youngsters can live no more than 5 years or not. The department also said that it may be flexible to set the deadline but it depends on the association agreement.

However, Mr.Chung, a 27 years old accountant, thinks the programme is not helping young people in Hong Kong for saving at all. “I don’t understand why I have to live in a hostel like I am travelling to other countries. Then why not living with my parents? I don’t even have to pay rents.” said Mr. Chung. “The program is a surplus. The best way to save money is to live with the family. The rent of the hostel is cheap but there are other expenses, for example, charges for electricity and water. I still have to spend a lot for living in a hostel.”

Sami Kan, a year 3 student of Shue Yan University thinks that the hostel rent is acceptable. She will consider renting the hostel with her boyfriend, who is a university student as well. “I will think about the price, environment and equipment when I rent a hostel. If it is ideal and comfortable, I would prefer a hostel to a public housing estate.” she said. Some of the youngsters think the program is not a solution for them, but for some, the program still have its attractiveness for those who are longing for private spaces. The effectiveness of the program still needs to be observed when the first hostel lounges.

“The major problem of delaying the project is finding the contruction site. – Chris Chung, the legislative council member

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