Perfecting Hong Kong’s Housing Policy

Speech of the Hon KP Chan on Motion on Perfecting Hong Kong’s Housing Policy at the Legislative Council on April 18th, 2012 (Synopsis)

• Housing is always a prime concern of the public. As we have a Chief Executive Elect, there is no better timing for the community to reconsider and lay down the long term and comprehensive housing policy.

• In my view, the policy should be led by public housing in principle. Currently, almost half of the population is living in public rental and homeownership housing. This ratio should be lifted basically through additional public rental housing, supplemented by homeownership and sandwiched class flats for those who could not afford private housing but are ineligible for public rental units.

• Irregularities of illegally-partitioned, caged and multi-room flats may only be resolved readily by substantial increase in public rental housing. So is the intrinsic right of shelter. In Singapore, public housing is accommodating as high as 85 percent of the population. It has been demonstrated that the more people living in public housing the more stable is society. When housing is no longer a cause for concern, people would turn their attention to pursuing careers. Poverty would also be greatly relieved. Public housing policy in Singapore has not only resolved accommodation but also promoted social harmony and mitigated conflicts. It has demonstrated the undertaking of Government on the future of society.

• For Hong Kong, I am not convinced that increasing public housing for the grass root would grossly affect private development because they have different targets. Moreover, affluent Mainlanders are buying properties in Hong Kong in recent years, and the private housing market is reorienting to meet the increasing demand. Meanwhile, housing prices would also surge on buying spree beyond affordability of the grass root. Now is good timing to increase public housing and resolve accommodation for the grass root once and for all.

• In private housing, the only role of Government is supplying adequate land for developers to meet market demand dynamically. At present, land supply is back on the right track. With adequate supply in the years ahead, housing prices should re-stabilize. Previously, I said that land use for residence only accounts for 7 percent, commerce for 3 percent and agriculture including fishery for 6 percent of total area of the territory. These figures show that there is actually more space for development than perceived. So long as planning is properly done, there would be no shortage of land supply for development.

• Finally, the Government should put population policy ahead of housing policy including population sustainability, policy on new arrivals and demographic quality. Otherwise, no housing effort would be productive. Actually, if increase in public housing fell short of population growth, particularly the grass root, recurring shortage in supply would defeat policy objectives. Therefore, the Government must have proper population policy to allow housing policy to adapt to changing demographic trends.

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