Wednesday, December 2, 2015   

Big on promises

Mary Ann Benitez and Eddie Luk

Thursday, January 17, 2013


A beleaguered chief executive delivered his first policy address with a promise to build at least 120,000 flats within five years.

Leung Chun-ying, whose popularity has plunged to new lows amid accusations of lying about illegal structures at his Peak home, said his six- month-old administration "will not lose momentum."

He added: "I am confident that we will be able to produce 120,000 units or more and get it off the ground."

Seven of 10 measures to increase housing and the land supply is already making available more than 300 hectares of sites for housing, he said.

That would provide "about 128,700 units in the short to medium terms based on known developments." These include newly announced measures such as 13 green belt areas, lifting the new land sale or lease restrictions in Pok Fu Lam and Mid-Levels and developing the one- time Lamma Quarry.

Leung is also sighting on 36 government, institution or community sites for housing use.

An average of 24,800 public and private flats have been produced in each of the past five years.

But only 9,800 private homes were completed each year, and in the middle of 2012 the vacancy rate of private flats was 4 percent - the lowest in 15 years.

It will be an uphill battle to plug the gaps. For starters, more than 200,000 people are on the waiting list for public housing, and many middle-income families cannot afford to buy flats amid a red-hot property market.

"We recognize that problems stemming from property prices and rentals, cage homes, cubicle apartments and sub-divided units cannot be solved overnight," Leung said.

"But we must acknowledge these problems, understand the gravity of the situation, and take the first step forward to resolve them."

The administration's "top priority" is to tackle housing problems, he added, "and we will strive to help the grassroots to get to public rental housing and help the middle-class families to purchase their own properties."

On subsidized housing, Leung said he has secured land for the building of about 75,000 new public housing flats over five years commencing from the current financial year.

He also has a target of at least 100,000 public housing flats over five years starting from 2018.

For the middle class, about 17,000 Home Ownership Scheme flats will be provided from 2016 to 2020. The first batch of 2,100 new HOS flats will be offered for pre-sale next year.

And due to the popular response to the Greenview Villa subsidized housing project in Tsing Yi, the government has set aside a site in Sha Tin for the Hong Kong Housing Society to develop a similar project.

On private housing, there will be 67,000 new flats in the next three or four years.

In the long term, Leung said the northeast New Territories will provide about 533 hectares that can be developed, reclamation outside Victoria Harbour will produce another 2,000-3,000 hectares, and the Hung Shui Kiu development area will provide 400.

Leung asked that citizens believe in his pledge on more homes.

But one source claimed that the Leung administration cannot set a very high target for homes because the civil service is not in shape presently to take on all the challenges and tasks that would come with a massive building program.

On that, Lau Kwok-yu, an associate professor in City University's department of public and social administration, said Leung is failing to meet the housing expectations of the grassroots because they see no big increase in building public housing in the coming few years.

There must be at least 20,000 public housing flats built each year to catch up with current needs at the grassroots, Lau added, and he expects the number of people applying for public housing will in any case soar.

Centaline founder Shih Wing-ching said the projected number of private flats to be built in the coming few years will fall short of demand, and he thinks it unlikely that property prices will go down.

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