Hongkong Land, the biggest landlord in the Central business district, has revealed a new programme backed by a HK$100 million (US$12.84 million) fund aimed at helping 1,000 pupils and their families living in subdivided flats to climb the social ladder.
The Home Fund initiative, which involves the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and 27 non-government organisations, will offer educational and counselling programmes to 1,000 Primary Four to Form Six students and their families stuck in cramped spaces in Yau Tsim Mon and Sham Shui Po districts, two of the poorest in Hong Kong.
“Studying in a confined space in the grip of an epidemic, teenagers who live in subdivided flats really struggle a lot,” Natalie Wu Yuk-yee, the developer’s senior manager of corporate social responsibility, said earlier this week. “Also, how can they maintain a healthy relationship with their families? We see the need to help these young people.”
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Secondary school students will also be offered job shadowing, internships and career planning.
The 132-year-old developer, which owns about 450,000 square metres of prime office and retail space in Central, said its decision last year to set up the fund was unrelated to Beijing’s call for property companies to help solve the housing crisis.
The central government leadership has called the lack of affordable housing a deep-seated problem that local officials must address, and set a target in July for the city to “bid farewell” to subdivided flats and so-called cage homes by 2049.
“The objective of our fund is to help Hong Kong people,” Wu said. “There are many ways to tackle housing issues. We do not rule out the possibility that we will be launching other programmes in the future.”
Hongkong Land will match monetary contributions that its employees and tenants make to any authorised charity, beginning with a minimum of HK$100 (US$13) per worker, all the way up to HK$15,000. For tenants to participate, they must donate at least HK$5,000, with the maximum matched amount set at HK$50,000.
Hongkong Land, 50 per cent owned by the Jardine Matheson Holdings conglomerate, is not the only developer trying to devise new approaches to the housing crisis.
In September, New World Development launched a non-profit social housing enterprise, New World Build for Good, to carry out research and lead pilot programmes aimed at helping Hongkongers own their own flats.
Other major developers have also lent land to the government to build transitional housing. When asked whether Hongkong Land would consider following suit, Wu only said the company was mainly focused on property investment and so was different from other developers.
Wu said the company was also expanding its charity programme to mainland China.
“Hopefully the scheme will take place in cities where our offices and properties are, for example, Beijing and Shanghai,” she said, adding the outreach on the mainland would be focused on helping young people.