Low-cost mortgages for young proposed
The government should provide low-interest or interest-free loans to young homebuyers, a think tank suggested, after a survey found nearly 70 per cent of those planning to enter the housing market prefer private property to subsidised housing.
'Housing for young people is an important matter that deserves more public attention,' said Bauhinia Foundation chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk as he released the findings yesterday. 'We hope our survey will stimulate wider discussions about the issue to help the government formulate a policy that addresses the housing needs of our young people.'
The survey of 1,013 residents, aged 18 to 39, found that 27 per cent intended to buy a home in the next five years. Of these, 69 per cent said they preferred private housing to subsidised flats.
Two out of three respondents said they would need government assistance to buy a flat. As to what form of assistance this should be, 33 per cent favoured low-interest or interest-free loans, while 22 per cent preferred official measures to regulate the market and stabilise prices.
Wu said the government should consider resurrecting loan schemes in view of the findings: 'Although the current interest rate is very low, it is hard to say if this [will remain so in future]. If the government can make such loans available, young people can be shielded from the risks of high interest rates.'
Wu said that he did not think the measure would hurt the market.
Advisers to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have said that it is not a good time to relaunch loan schemes for homebuyers, given the low housing supply. The loans would only fuel demand and boost prices further, they said.
The survey also found another 20 per cent want to rent their own flat in the next five years. Some 29 per cent called for a larger public rental housing quota for young people.
Asked whether the think-tank thought that turning disused factories into 'youth hostels' to help young, unmarried applicants for public rental flats would be helpful, Wu said they could not comment as the proposal was still being drawn up.
Wu said the group had not considered the new administration's pledge of 'Hong Kong property for Hong Kong residents', on which officials have recently backtracked.
Meanwhile, the Urban Renewal Authority's chairman, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, said it was ready to play a bigger role in housing. He suggested that an industrial building in Sai Wan Ho which it is buying could be redeveloped into public housing or flats for the 'sandwich class' - lower-middle-class families who earn too much to be eligible for public housing but cannot afford their own homes.
The proportion of people surveyed who said they wanted to see the Home Ownership Scheme brought back