Minister cautious on return of HOS flats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am

Housing chief Eva Cheng Yu-wah sounded a cautious note yesterday about reviving a subsidised housing scheme suspended since 2002.

The minister told the Legislative Council's housing panel that relaunching the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) would have a significant social impact. Thorough consultation would be needed before any policy change, she said.

The scheme was launched in 1978 to provide low-cost accommodation for sale to less well-off families.

Members of the Housing Authority, which advises the administration on public housing policy, recently called for the scheme to be resumed in the light of rising home prices.

Ms Cheng said the government would consider public opinion and examine the availability of affordable flats before considering whether to relaunch the scheme.

She noted that over the past few years, 60 per cent of flats sold in the private sector had cost less than HK$2 million, and that there had been a lukewarm response from public housing tenants to the offer for sale of mothballed HOS flats.

'It would be a waste if we build more HOS flats which are not attractive to the people we want to help.'

Lawmakers criticised her stance and said the scheme should be revived. The Civic Party's Alan Leong Kah-kit said it was hard to say how many buyers of cheap private flats were public housing tenants qualified to buy HOS flats.

'It is not justified to say the supply of low-priced flats is abundant without having detailed figures about the buyers,' he said. 'I also cannot see the effect that a resumption of the scheme would have on the economy.'

Lau Kong-wah, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, predicted property prices would rise dramatically.

'The government should take measures to ensure the stable development of the market, such as increasing the supply of low-priced flats,' he said.

Ms Cheng said the government was not a property developer. Its role was to make sure the poor had a roof over their heads.