Public flats may be sold under scheme

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am

Sale of units considered to meet HOS demand

Public housing could become Home Ownership Scheme flats if the demand for the scheme's flats surges, the Housing Department chief said yesterday.

Housing Department director Thomas Chan Chun-yuen was speaking at a Legislative Council housing panel meeting.

Legislators urged the government to resume building HOS flats, which were sold at about 70 per cent of the market price, because of the recent sharp increase in sales and rental prices in the private property market.

Mr Chan agreed property prices had reached their highest level since 1997 and said the government was closely monitoring the market, but it had no plans to resume building HOS flats.

Panel chairman Lee Wing-tat argued that even if the government started to build flats now, it would take nine years for them to be sold.

'The government should build the HOS flats now to cope with the upcoming demand,' he said.

But Mr Chan said it would take just three years for the flats to be sold, according to the Housing Department's estimation.

'If the situation becomes worse suddenly, we can consider changing public housing flats to HOS flats.'

He insisted that the government would consider the private property market, turnover in public housing and public opinion in deciding whether or not to resume building HOS flats.

The panel will invite Mr Chan to a meeting in June or July to discuss the issue again, as rents and prices might increase further. 'With what Mr Chan said, it seems that the government has a contingency plan if there is a high pressure demanding HOS flats,' Mr Lee said.

He noted there were about 10,000 public housing flats in East Kowloon that could become HOS flats if the need arose.

Legislator for Kowloon East Chan Yuen-han said she agreed with the idea of turning public flats into HOS flats only if the supply of public housing would not be affected.

'If there are sufficient public housing flats, especially in Hong Kong Island, to meet the demand, I agree that the public housing flats can become HOS flats,' she said.

She added that there was not sufficient flats available in public housing on Hong Kong Island and that the government should not send public housing tenants to Kowloon or the New Territories.

The Housing Authority's secretary for transport and housing, Eva Cheng Yu-wah, said in the meeting that about 76,000 new public housing flats in various districts would be built in the coming five years under the authority's plan.

Ms Cheng said the department could keep the waiting period to within three years for applicants seeking flats in public housing under the planned supply.

According to the department, the average time it takes for an applicant to get a flat in public housing is about 18 months.