Heckled and jeered as she tried to deliver her third annual policy address to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) on Wednesday, the territory’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam nevertheless produced a bold blueprint to tackle what has long been one of the territory’s most pressing social problems: its housing shortage. Forced to deliver her address via video after she was hounded out of the Legco by pro-democracy lawmakers, Mrs Lam pledged to uphold the “one country, two systems” formula that confers a degree of autonomy for Hong Kong from the mainland. She also stressed that she would not tolerate calls for independence or which threaten China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.
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But the main focus of her speech was housing, which she described as “the toughest livelihood issue” facing Hong Kong society. While this has been a longstanding problem, it has assumed crisis proportions after a decade of near-zero interest rates, which have led to housing prices rising more than 250 per cent since 2009, while average wages have gone up barely 50 per cent. As a result, Hong Kong has become the least affordable housing market in the world. It also has a shortage of public housing, with people having to wait 5.4 years on average for subsidised public rental flats.