Change call on sandwich class scheme
By Our Political Desk
MORE people will benefit from the Government's proposed $2 billion cash handout to relieve the sandwich class housing problem if the fund is used to build new flats instead of paying a direct subsidy, according to legislators.
While legislators from different camps agreed that more resources should be used to alleviate the sandwich class' burden, some questioned whether the cash-giving approach proposed by the Government was viable.
They suggested that the fairest and most effective way was to earmark additional land to build flats for the sandwich class.
The Financial Secretary, Mr Hamish Macleod, announced in the Budget that a payment of $2 billion would be given to the Housing Society to benefit up to 3,000 first-time home buyers in the sandwich class.
The scheme would help needy buyers get flats at a subsidised price.
Meeting Point legislator Mr Zachary Wong Wai-yin said his group had reservations about the proposal and the $2 billion would be of more benefit if used to build new units.
''Our calculation is that the same money can give a total of 7,000 units if it is used for building new flats for the sandwich class,'' Mr Wong said.
It is estimated that 40,000 to 45,000 people are in the sandwich class, which the Government defines as consisting of families with a monthly income of between $20,000 and $40,000.
Mr Wong said the Sino-British Land Commission should allocate more land to cater for such people.
When asked about meeting the public's immediate needs, Mr Wong said: ''The sandwich class does not have an immediate housing problem. But they have a home buying problem. It's very difficult for them to buy their own flats.
''So we don't think it's so urgent to find homes for them immediately. They can wait two or three years more if a concrete proposal is offered to build homes for them.'' Independent Mr Eric Li Ka-cheung said: ''I will approve the funding of $2 billion to solve the problem, but I don't think the proposal is sensible. It's a quick fix, but it's wrong in economic principles. The private developers will be the main beneficiary of the scheme.'' United Democrat Mr Man Sai-cheong said the party considered it would be best to expand the Home Ownership Scheme to cover the sandwich class.
The Co-operative Resources Centre (CRC) was the only faction which supported the scheme.
CRC member Mr Ronald Arculli said such interim measures should be implemented when long-term measures such as buying flats from the private sector or building housing estates for this group of people took time to take shape.
The provision of 3,000 flats in the next two or three years would not create pressure on the private property market, which could complete about 35,000 flats a year, he said.
Meanwhile, the property business sector said the Government should not share the burden of the sandwich class.
The Centaline Property Agency's managing director, Mr Shih Wing-ching, said he objected to providing special housing for the sandwich class as the group was not the one with the most urgent needs.