In her recent policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor proposed a number of policy initiatives to alleviate the current land and housing shortage in Hong Kong.
I am glad to hear that she is going to set up a timeline to review efforts to boost land supply, including a new policy framework regarding the development of brownfield sites scattered across the territory.
Apart from that, I am also happy to learn that our CE has pledged to address the issue of the “right to housing” in our society.
In collaboration with the Hong Kong Housing Society, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the Urban Renewal Authority, she has proposed a series of short-term measures to provide affordable and decent accommodation for low-income families, including a scheme of government-approved subdivided units managed by non-profit organizations.
Unfortunately, the policy address has failed to answer my call for the government to tap into the vast pool of vacant premises developed by the Civil Servants’ Co-operative Building Societies, which could increase the housing supply within a short period of time.
As far as long-term housing supply is concerned, Lam has decided to regularize the Green Form Subsidized Home Ownership Scheme as well as the Interim Scheme of Extending the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) Secondary Market to White Form Buyers. The government is also set to build a thousand new homes that will be exclusively available to local first-time homebuyers.
I agree that the HOS secondary market scheme can provide families in the “sandwich class” with an instant pathway to homeownership, thereby facilitating the turnover of current public rental housing (PRH) units and shortening the average waiting time of public housing applicants.
However, I do feel compelled to take issue with the government’s proposal to designate the bulk of the newly completed PRH flats in Fo Tan for sale under the Green Form homeownership scheme.
By putting all these newly completed flats up for sale, there will be no increase in the number of PRH units available, which means the scheme will not help shorten the already prolonged waiting time of applicants for PRH flats.
Moreover, Lam’s proposal to seek public-private partnerships in building new homes exclusively for local first-time homebuyers has raised public concern over possible government-business collusion.
That said, I believe the government must proceed with the proposal with the utmost caution and guarantee transparency throughout the process in order to allay public concerns before formally launching the scheme.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 2
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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