Scheme faces race against time
By SARAH SHAW
NO action has yet been taken on the Governor's proposals directed at solving the problem of ''sandwich class'' housing.
Representatives of the organisations involved, who say they are currently working out details, acknowledge that they will have to move quickly if the scheme is to proceed according to schedule.
The sandwich class is defined as households with a monthly income of between $18,000 and $40,000. The proposed housing package aims to provide 13,000 units by 1997.
In the first, interim stage of the package the Government will buy 3,000 existing units from the private sector and pass them on at a subsidised price.
In the second stage, the Government will purchase land which will be developed by the Housing Society, an independent body, in two lots of 5,000 units due to be available in 1996 and 1997.
Critics say that the Government is merely scratching the surface of the problem with the amount of units that will be provided.
United Democrat Mr Lee Wing-tat, speaking after the Governor announced the package in his policy speech last October, said that with yearly growth of 4,000 sandwich class families, their number would have reached 67,000 by 1997.
Other critics argue that the package is unnecessary.
Mr Nick Brooke, partner in Brooke Hillier Parker and a member of the Housing Authority said: ''It is arguable that the Government doesn't need to intervene at all, because salaries are rising to meet prices. ''There is a feeling that the market should beallowed to find its own level.'' Ms Cheung Siu-hing, principal assistant secretary (Lands), said: ''We will have to act pretty quickly in the next few months for the flats to be available in the autumn.'' Ms Cheung said the size of the units would vary, but would probably be in the region of 40 to 70 square metres.
In the first year of the scheme 1,000 units were expected to be made available, figures for the following two years would depend on response, she said.
Buying would start in a few months, Ms Cheung said.
Housing Society executive director Mr Victor So said that there were still a lot of details to be worked out.
''We haven't identified the sites yet, but we hope to do so before the middle of this year. There must be a three-year lead time.'' Mr So said that the sandwich class could increase or decrease in number, depending on whether incomes caught up with housing prices or lagged behind them.