10 July, 2014

Hong Kong's Public Housing Waiting Problem: Freedom is the Answer

Background information:

Public housing in Hong Kong is a set of mass housing programmes through which the Government of Hong Kong provides affordable housing for lower-income residents. Learn more on Wikipedia.

Not only are the low income people offered subsidized housing, but they are given choices in doing so.  While waiting for public housing to be available, they are given up to three offers to choose from.  If a family is not happy with the first available choice offered (usually due to bad location or due to being an old housing that was occupied before), they may choose to wait for the second and third public housing offers to become available, so that they can pick the one choice that suits them best (hopefully a shiny new apartment in a brand new housing estate with fine facilities, close proximity to subway, shopping malls, parks, playgrounds, and their workplace).  All that at taxpayer's expense.  Isn't that nice!

The problem presented before the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LEGCO):

The problem in this kind of multiple choice public housing scheme naturally becomes the fact that many older and less desirable flats in public housing remain empty, despite the fact that there is an ever growing list of low income families on the waiting list, all waiting for more housing to be built by the government so that they can have their two or three choices to choose from, especially if the first offer was shabby and old like this one.  So LEGCO has recently assembled a Panel on Housing meeting for submissions of ideas by public and business sector for consideration in dealing with this growing problem of long waiting lines and increasing numbers of empty public housing.

Freedom solution:

Had I been present in the Panel on Housing meeting, my speech (limited to just 2 minutes) would have been something along the following lines.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here to discuss the problem of accepting waiting offers in subsidized public housing.  This problem is caused by and exists solely because of government meddling into housing by keeping tight land supply through collusion with property developers.  A couple of very popular books amongst local readers have shed a light on this chronic problem in Hong Kong.
The effect of this practice of crony capitalism in housing has been the sky high property prices and armies of low wage earners who are unable to afford decent affordable housing.  Therefore, what is being considered here today is the treatment of the unwanted effects, instead of addressing the underlying disease.  When you subsidize something, you are destined to get more of it.  Worse still, when you subsidize something and provide choices, you are also destined to create vast amounts of unwanted waste.
While the solution to this waste in public housing can be remedied by a reduction in public housing choices or by building more housing in order to allow for more choices (to an even greater pleasure of developers laughing all the way to the bank and of politicians securing their cushy seats), the problem of the continual growth in number of families sitting on the subsidized public housing waiting list is bound to remain.  Therefore, the real subject for discussion in these fine cushy chambers should be the elimination of the underlying disease by phasing out the collectivized public housing and allowing the free market to operate.
Existence of public housing is also wrong on the moral level as well.  People are not born with rights to housing. Each individual has a right to his life, right to the fruits of one's own labor, and liberty to do with his life as he so choose. Understanding and accepting this universal and moral truth of humanity, helps one to properly determine and act in the accordance of what the proper role of government ought to be. The purpose of government in that respect is to secure the basic rights of life, liberty, and property, nothing else! The Hong Kong government has failed its people in many of these areas, and its determination to take on even more roles in people's lives, such as that of continuation of running the subsidized housing scheme, instead of focusing on securing the essential liberties, only perpetuates HK people's problems.  Let's return freedom and fruits of individual labor back to their proper owners by abolishing the Hong Kong Housing Authority and taking power away from politicians to award contracts to their crony special interests.
So long as the free market mechanism - that wonderful system which enabled the creation and widespread consumption of glorious wealth amongst all segments of HK society - so long as it continues to be prevented to operate in housing, and therefore as the people of Hong Kong continue to remain un-free, the lines for subsidized housing will continue to grow longer and longer, politicians will continue to gain more and more political powers to act on people's behalf, bringing more and more people closer to the point when standing in line for free stuff is better than working for it.

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