Varsity life at HKU is just so amazing. So amazing you want to be there all the time… if not, at least near it.
Indeed, it is the wish of many HKU students to live near or on campus. Judging by the ferocious competition for residential hall placements every year (and the sad faces of rejected applicants), living near HKU isn’t as easy as falling in love with it.
“The University [of Hong Kong] has always lacked residential hall placements for students,” said Patrick Tang, Director of Campus Life of Centre of Development and Resources for Students (CEDARS) at HKU.
To exacerbate the situation, there will soon be an increased estimated shortage of 1900 places by 2012, when both cohorts of A-Level graduates and the fresh batch of Diploma of Secondary Examinations (DSE) graduates will enter HKU at the same time. But of course the University has its plans.
“Before even the New Senior Secondary curriculum was officially announced, the University has already foreseen this shortage and drafted plans for a new residential college in Lung Wah Street nearby campus, which can house up to 1800 undergraduate and post-graduate students. It will sure be finished by 2012,” said Patrick Tang with optimism.
“Even if students don’t manage to settle [in a residential hall], they can still rent apartments nearby campus.”
But Patrick Tang admits that there has been an increase in rents in the Western District for the past 5 years. He is not wrong. In fact, Centaline shows that the overall rent in Hong Kong has risen from under $11 in the trough of 2003 to almost $19 in September 2010 (see figure).
“With the Western-Kennedy Town Development Project,” said Patrick, “and the positive effect [the new Western] MTR [line], it’s sure that rent prices of the Western District will rise, but we believe it shouldn’t be of such a large margin.”
Mr. Lo, a real estate agent in Sai Ying Pun, thinks otherwise. Mr. Lo said rents have shot up by more than 20% just in the first half 2010 alone. To rent a room around HKU, say at Centre Street, a decent one of around 80 feet with a private toilet, costs around $3000. How can a student, on top of tuition fees, afford such high rent?
Fortunately, CEDARS is there to the rescue. “In recent years, shortage has been so serious that the University decided to directly rent flats around Pokfulam for students who want to live nearby campus,” said Patrick.
The theory works like this: say if four students share a 400-foot flat at $5,000 a month, each only has to pay $1,100, which is equivalent to the amount halls of residence in HKU charges them. Working out the math, CEDARS is gladly willing to subsidize $600 to the four students.
For non-local full-time students who wish to live in flats rented off-campus, if granted, can enjoy a $20,000 housing allowance per annum. Even under the tight budget for the construction of HKU’s Centennial Campus and the Lung Wah Street residential college project, HKU believes the university should bond students with the varsity life HKU has always been proud of.
“Whoever comes to HKU to study is always our student. CEDARS has to help them within our power to make them feel like home,” said Patrick.
“We have to cater for everyone. We once had a bunch of Northern European exchange students who suddenly arrived in Hong Kong. Luckily, we reacted quickly and housed them at Bishop Lei International House in Robinson Road until we found them a place at a residential hall.
“The exchange students found the experience at the House great. They were so happy when the House even offered them [free] taxi service to the University.”