Carrie Lam vows every Hong Kong family will have their own home

October 16, 2019 15:32
Chief Executive Carrie Lam pledges to drastically increase the number of housing projects and accelerate the sale of public housing schemes in her policy address on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday unveiled measures aimed at making homes more affordable and easing the housing shortage amid the escalating civil unrest that has beset her administration since June.

Stressing that adequate housing is fundamental to social harmony and stability, Lam said: “I hereby set a clear objective that every Hong Kong citizen and his family will no longer have to be troubled by or preoccupied with the housing problem, and that they will be able to have their own home in Hong Kong, a city in which we all have a share.”

Lam delivered her third policy address over a video feed. Earlier in the day, she had been forced to abandon her speech at the Legislative Council, after pan-democratic lawmakers jeered as she began to speak.

In her annual address, the chief executive noted that young professionals, with monthly salaries in the tens of thousands, are frustrated by their inability to buy flats from the private housing market because prices are often above HK$10,000 per square foot.

To provide assistance to young professionals and first-time homebuyers, the government is raising the cap on the value of the properties under the insurance program of the Hong Kong Mortage Corporation.

For a first-time homebuyer, the cap on the value of a property eligible for a mortgage loan with a maximum cover of 90 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio will be raised from the existing HK$4 million to HK$8 million.

For a property eligible for a mortgage loan with maximum cover of 80 percent LTV ratio (which may include a mortgage loan for self-occupied “flat for flat”), the ceiling will be raised from HK$6 million to HK$10 million.

Lam said she will invite the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HKHA) to explore the feasibility of redeveloping its factory estates for public housing, particularly to increase the supply of public rental housing units.

The government will substantially increase the number of transitional housing projects to provide a total of 10,000 such units within the next three years to relieve the pressure on families living in unpleasant conditions and those waiting for public rental housing for a long time.

It will also put up a private residential site on Anderson Road in the New Territories for sale in the first quarter of 2020 for the second Starter Home pilot project.

For low-income households not living in public rental housing and not receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), Lam is providing a cash allowance as a housing relief. She will invite the Community Care Fund to launch two rounds of "one-off living subsidy' for such households in the next financial year.

Easing housing shortage

As part of efforts to ease the housing shortage, the chief executive said there are multiple land resumption projects under the Lands Resumption Ordinance in the pipeline. About 700 hectares of private land will be resumed, of which some 400 hectares is expected to be resumed in the next five years for large-scale development projects, as well as a couple of public housing and other public works projects.

She said the government will give priority to the study of 160 hectares brownfield sites in the New Territories and assess their suitability for public housing development, with a view to commencing follow-up technical assessment by the end of this year.

Lam also noted that individual property developers (such as the New World Development) have recently announced that they would provide or lend land for housing development and other public welfare uses at no cost.

Welcoming such act, she said she is appealing to all property developers to support the government in easing the housing problem by developing their land for public housing or Starter Homes, through the application of the Lands Resumption Ordinance and the Land Sharing Pilot Scheme.

Under the Land Sharing Pilot Scheme, the government will release as soon as possible private lots with consolidated ownership but not yet covered by government planning and study, in order to boost short- and medium-term housing supply. The scheme will cover a period of three years and the area of private land to be approved will be capped at 150 hectares.

As regards the Lantau Tomorrow Vision, Lam reiterated that the mega land reclamation and artificial island project will be an important medium- to long-term measure to boost land supply.

As some members of the community have concerns about the development of artificial islands, she said her administration will establish a platform for various professionals and young people to take part in formulating measures to address such concerns.

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EJ Insight writer

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