Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan has a theory about the rise in private car sales in Hong Kong.
Answering questions about his boss Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s policy address in a radio interview, Chan said young people who can’t afford to buy a flat have opted to buy their own car instead, Apple Daily reports.
He said although soaring home prices are getting beyond their reach, they still yearn for private space which they can satisfy by acquiring their own car.
The convenience provided by driving your own car is also a clear motivation, Chan said, noting that a car “can help take people around”.
The official acknowledged that young people “think differently” from the old generation, and there is “no right or wrong about that”.
Chan’s remarks drew a lot of comments on social media, with some netizens saying that “that’s not how things work”.
A lawyer surnamed Chan agreed that it is a lot cheaper to buy a car than a house, but the two are “very different things” and their “price gap is not only a few thousand dollars”.
Another netizen, who works in the construction industry, said cars are “a luxury item” and most people would rather save their money to be able to own a flat in the future rather than buy a car now.
The transport chief promised to review the current vehicle licensing system in view of the “high demand” from young people.
At the same time, the government is studying how to increase the efficiency and comfort of public transport to reduce the need for people to buy their own cars, he said.
Chan said although raising the tax for first vehicle registration would be an effective measure to control the number of private cars, that would be the government’s last resort.
Reacting to Chan’s remarks, Hung Wing-tat, a member from the Hong Kong Institution of Transport and Logistic Management, said he had never heard of anyone studying the relationship between buying a flat and the increase in the number of private cars.
“No one will buy a car to live in, and the two are incomparable in the first place,” Hung said. “There is no logic to Chan’s theory at all.”
Lam Cheuk-ting, vice chairman of the Legislative Council’s transport committee, also finds Chan’s theory difficult to understand, adding that his words might only encourage more young people to buy cars.
Law Siu-hung, chairman of the Motor Trades Association of Hong Kong, believes Chan’s words do not completely lack common sense.
Many of those who buy cars are young people probably because “they can afford it and they want private space”, he said.
Instead of saving up for a long time to be able to own a flat, some people would rather buy a car.
The low interest rates on bank loans could be another incentive for young people to buy cars, Law added.
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