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.
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.