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Hong Kong has world's least affordable housing: survey

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong has the world's least affordable housing, according to an international survey, a finding likely to stoke anger among residents already fed up with runaway property prices.

Buying a home in the Asian financial hub, synonymous with its super-rich tycoons and glittering financial district, costs more than 11 times the city's average salary, outpacing London, New York and other major cities, U.S.-based consulting firm Demographia said in a report released Monday.

Sydney was ranked the second-least affordable major city, followed by Vancouver, and Melbourne.

The 7th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey compared home prices and household income in 325 cities in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Britain and the United States.

It is the first time Hong Kong has been included in the survey.

Hong Kong's median home prices in the third quarter of 2010 averaged HK$2.58 million (US$330,939), about 11.4 times the median household annual income of HK$225,400.

The most affordable homes in the survey were all in the United States and Canada, with Saginaw in Michigan being the most affordable city, with a median house price of US$61,400.

Atlanta was the most affordable major city, where the median house price was US$129,400.

Rising property prices have become a major concern for Hong Kong's population of seven million.

Worries about a property bubble have prompted Hong Kong's government to announce a series of measures to cool the market, including boosting land supply and new stamp duties to keep out hot money.

Home prices in Hong Kong have risen 50 percent over the past two years, due to low interest rates, a robust economy and an influx of buyers from mainland China, who account for a big portion of purchases, especially of luxury homes.

Buggle Lau, chief analyst at Hong Kong property broker Midland Holdings, said he expected prices to continue to surge in 2011, but also questioned the Demographia survey's methodology.

“The survey does not take into account more affordable housing in Hong Kong, like government housing,” he said.

Eddie Hui, a professor of the department of building and real estate at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, also said the survey is “not an accurate reflection” of price of homes in Hong Kong.

“Up to 50 percent of people here live in some form of public housing — one of the highest rates in the world, but the survey did not take into account the prices of government housing.”

He also said it would be fairer to measure housing costs as a percentage of after-tax income, as Hong Kong is known for its relatively low tax rates.

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Hong Kong has world's least affordable housing: survey
Highrise buildings line Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on October 27, 2010. Hong Kong has the world's least affordable housing, according to an international survey, a finding ...

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