Warning on home plan dishonesty
By S. Y. YUE and NG KANG-CHUNG
PEOPLE making dishonest applications for homes under the new ''sandwich class'' housing scheme for first-time buyers will face heavy penalties if caught, the Government warned yesterday.
It was revealed that applicants will have to make official declarations confirming that they are first-time buyers.
But property agents and pressure groups have criticised the condition, saying it will only result in more red tape.
The Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, Mr Tony Eason, said the $2 billion allocated by the Financial Secretary, Mr Hamish Macleod, would be used to help 3,000 first-time home buyers over the next three years.
The scheme will be operated by the Housing Society and will enable people to buy flats at a subsidised price. It is particularly targeted at the so-called sandwich class of people who earn too much to qualify for public housing, but are unable to afford to buy their own flats at existing market prices.
Mr Eason said details were being worked out, but the focus was on setting up a watertight system to make sure it only benefitted those first-time buyers in need.
''In the end, a final determinant would simply have to be a sworn statement with severe penalty and it would have to rely on the honesty of the applicants,'' Mr Eason said.
The group general manager of property consultant L & D Holdings, Mr Samuel Kuk Ying-chung, said: ''It is childish to try defining a first-time buyer by asking him to take an oath. Speculators can simply ask their relatives or friends to buy the sandwich class flats for them.'' The vice-chairman of the Hongkong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, Mr Leung Kwong-cheong, feared such a requirement would result in a lengthy delay while buyers' backgrounds were checked.
The Government has been talking to the Housing Society on a ''flat-for-land'' barter scheme, in providing flats at a price more affordable for 10,000 sandwich class people.
The idea is for the Government to provide cheap land for the Housing Society to build flats, which would be sold to middle-income people at a reduced price.
Mr Macleod announced last week that $2 billion would be allocated to speed up the implementation of the scheme.
Mr Eason said the cash would enable them to provide benefits to 3,000 people much earlier than planned, as they did not have to go through the cumbersome procedures in the barter scheme. The first beneficiaries would be able to move in by August.
The target population originally included those having a monthly income between $18,000 to $40,000. Mr Eason said the lower limit would be adjusted to $20,000 - the level recently approved under the Home Ownership Scheme as the upper limit.
It is estimated that 40,000 to 45,000 people are in the sandwich class.
In selecting 3,000 out of the target population, Mr Eason said preference would be given to those with lower income and larger family size.
The scheme would be carefully implemented to avoid any impact on the price of flats.