Give homebuyers the space they deserve
It's gratifying that Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor wants the next government to toughen further so-called green-feature concessions for developers. But why keep those concessions in the first place? They have proved in the past decade to be the biggest gaping loophole for developers to rip off flat buyers. By offering buyers green facilities with minimal or no government supervision, developers received extra floor area for free, which they then sold to buyers as part of the gross floor area at a premium.
Lam, the development secretary who is hotly tipped to be the chief secretary in the new government, deserves credit for tightening the concessions in 2010 by capping them at 10 per cent of the gross floor area of a flat. But why is it any of the government's business to worry whether a builder offers amenities or greenery to its clients, as their transaction is - or ought to be - a purely private matter?
Now, Lam wants even tougher rules, such as better supervision and monitoring of those green features based on a so-called green-building rating system. This is supposed to retain the benefits of those concessions while closing the loophole. In reality, officials like Lam just don't want to get rid of those concessions for fear of antagonising the developers, who are already upset with the new concession rules as well as a gradual ban on advertising gross floor areas, to be imposed from next year.
Older buildings in Hong Kong have no green-feature concessions. That's why they have no ostentatious clubhouses, pretentious entrances and fake green parks. Their flats' efficiency ratio is much higher and people were much happier about that than now. Some buyers may want those amenities and be willing to pay for them. Developers can cater for them. But most people just want all the space they have paid for in their homes, without being cheated. If the government is truly worried about our living quality, stop being obsessed with making the most money from selling public land. Use more land to build parks and amenities instead of selling it to developers.