Verdict on future of HOS 'by year's end'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 September, 2002, 12:00am

The government will make a final decision by the end of the year on whether Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats will continue to be built, according to the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Michael Suen Ming-yeung.

But Mr Suen, speaking on a Commercial Radio programme, denied reports the government was planning to sell more than 20,000 surplus public flats to property developers, saying the idea was still under study.

In June, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen launched a housing policy shakeup under which policy-making power was stripped from the Housing Authority and the HOS scheme and rent levels of public flats were placed under review.

Mr Suen said housing policy should have a clearer focus to allow the public and property developers to understand its role.

He said the government had no intention of selling the unoccupied HOS flats to private developers, but when pressed on the issue admitted that it could be an option. 'I think we cannot give a general and simple answer, we have to see how we will treat HOS flats in the future,' he said.

'For example we should look at whether we will still build HOS flats, and we have to state clearly what role the HOS has in our policy, and what overlaps it will have with the private market.'

There was a lukewarm response to the latest sale of HOS flats, with only 5,117 applicants to buy the 2,451 flats on offer. The response, the worst in 24 years, further complicated the disposal of the accumulated pool of unsold flats. At its peak in May 1988, the scheme attracted 77,028 applications for 10,156 flats on offer.

Mr Suen said the government would make a final decision on policy direction by the end of the year. He said it would be announced in Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's policy address in January.

Meanwhile, about 7,400 fewer households will be eligible for HOS flats under tighter criteria announced by the Housing Authority yesterday. From October 1, the monthly income limit for families of two to five people will be lowered from $21,000 to $20,000, while the limits for single applicants will be halved. The asset limit of $480,000 remains unchanged.