Top advisers 'not consulted over homes change'
The top housing advisory body said yesterday it had not been consulted over the scrapping of the 1997 target of providing 85,000 new homes annually.
Housing Authority committee members complained at being kept in the dark a day after confirmation by Tung Chee-hwa that the 85,000 target - 50,000 from the public sector and 35,000 from private developers - had not existed since 1998. Mr Tung first made the disclosure last week.
Speaking at an authority meeting yesterday, member Wong Kwun said Secretary for Housing Dominic Wong Shing-wah had refused to confirm in January whether the Government had dropped the target. Another member, Michael Choi Ngai-min, said he was not aware that any housing officials had informed him of the change.
The Housing Authority is the statutory body responsible for implementing the public housing programme. It also advises the Chief Executive on all matters relating to public housing.
In September last year, authority chairwoman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming said: 'We need to build 50,000 public housing flats per year and we have never heard that the Government will change the target.' But instead of building public flats, the authority is now committed to 'providing at least on average 50,000 housing assistance opportunities annually to eligible families while the means involved will become more flexible' .
Wong Kwun said he had complained in January about proposals to cut the supply of Home Ownership Scheme flats from 2003. He said the Government had gone ahead with the new plan without discussions in the authority. 'I also pointed out the Government had changed its annual target of building 50,000 public flats secretly.' The accusation was not addressed by senior housing officials. Deputy Secretary for Housing Andrew Wells said Mr Tung had mentioned in 1998 that the supply of Home Ownership Scheme flats would be readjusted 'flexibly'.
Head of the authority's corporate strategy unit Andrew Lai Chi-wah said there had been 'detailed discussions' about the plan to replace the Home Ownership Scheme flats with loans.
Exco member Chung Shui-ming refused to say whether Exco had been told by Mr Tung in 1998 whether the target no longer existed. But he admitted there was room for improvement in the way the message had been put across to the public.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, of the Chinese University, said the controversy had damaged the Government's credibility.
'A responsible government is not supposed to behave like that,' he said.'