28 October 2016
Top Chinese official Zhang Dejiang (left) appears to be happy with the performance of  Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (center). Photo: Xinhua
Top Chinese official Zhang Dejiang (left) appears to be happy with the performance of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (center). Photo: Xinhua

Housing policy unlikely to change even if new CE takes over

Hong Kong will elect its next chief executive in March next year, or just nine months from now.

Many aspirants are already making their moves to be included in the race.

Local residents care more about whether the housing policy of Leung Chun-ying’s administration will be continued.

Interestingly, most of the chief executive hopefuls have avoided expressing their views on Leung’s housing policy of increasing supply and taming speculation.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, the city’s top official in charge of financial and economic policy, has rarely mentioned his views on the housing sector. Instead, he seems to prefer to talk about sports, culture and technology.

However, in his latest blog post on June 19, Tsang did voice out his views on housing policy.

He admitted that for most people, wage growth is unable to keep up with the skyrocketing home prices.

Economic growth alone is not enough to tackle the city’s housing issues.

Tsang said the government will continue to adopt measures like increasing supply to achieve steady development of the housing market.

In effect, he recognizes the housing supply approach adopted by current administration, which has one year left to implement its policies.

So that’s Tsang’s view on the housing issue, and it’s hard to imagine that he would change it anytime soon.

The city’s next chief executive will be chosen by a 1,200-member Election Committee. It’s known to all that Beijing has the final say.

Now comes Legislative Council head Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who has asked readers of his column to decode a riddle.

Most of his readers believe the answer is a phrase meaning “the refusal of a preordained chief executive”.

Beijing has adopted a wait-and-see attitude at the moment.

They are assessing the qualifications of several hopefuls, such as their political reliability.

Popularity with the masses is another key metric, given that Leung has encountered strong resistance to his policies because of lack of public support.

As such, those who want to run for chief executive must win the support of both Beijing and the local populace.

Politicians who vow to tame home prices could easily win public support as many people cannot afford to buy their own home.

China’s third-ranking official Zhang Dejiang said during his recent visit to the city that the central government recognizes the work of the Hong Kong government, citing its efforts in land, housing, elderly care and poverty alleviation.

Overall, Beijing is happy with Leung’s performance.

Leung has shown his political loyalty to Beijing. He has supported the so-called 831 Resolution (Aug. 31, 2014) of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which lays down the framework for the 2017 chief executive election.

Also, Leung has made some achievements in tackling the city’s deep-rooted issues, including land, housing and poverty alleviation, as mentioned by Zhang.

Generally speaking, the next chief executive will have to maintain the current housing policy in order to win support from Beijing and Hong Kong people.

All stakeholders, including property developers, investors, property owners and those who are planning to buy homes, must be aware of this big direction.

I believe other chief executive hopefuls will express their views on the housing policy soon – whether directly or indirectly.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 22.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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