Should controls on village houses be tightened?
It is alarming to learn that a large area of trees was illegally felled near Tai Mong Tsai in Sai Kung ('Concern over building permits after trees felled', January 7).
This was done, apparently, to build village houses, permitted under the Small House Policy, where male indigenous villagers aged 18 or above can apply to build a small house once in their lifetime.
Although only low-density residential developments, such as three-storey houses, are generally permitted in rural areas, the continuous issuing of building permits will eventually erode all the natural environment.
This is unacceptable as it puts in jeopardy the ecological balance.
However, I accept that scrapping the policy could provoke an outcry and, therefore, I suggest the government makes an environmental impact assessment a mandatory requirement in all rural area developments, no matter how small the project is.
Furthermore, the benchmark of the assessment should be raised significantly to minimise the impact. Nowadays, most of these so-called assessment submissions are nothing more than a rubber-stamp exercise. This must change.
Stringent planning conditions must also be imposed on the building permits to avoid environmental damage.
Finally, the Lands Department in conjunction with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, should establish a taskforce to constantly monitor the progress of the development project.
H. C. Bee, Ho Man Tin
Should more Home Ownership Scheme flats be built?
The Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) was launched in the 1970s.
Flats were built in order to cater to the needs of Hong Kong people who wanted to own their flats but could not afford to buy one in a private development.
Due to the economic recession, the HOS scheme was suspended [in 2002].
I think it was the correct decision to stop building and selling HOS flats during the slump, to help increase demand for flats in private developments.
However, this policy may no longer be the best one to pursue, given that the economy is recovering.
Although Hong Kong has recovered from its financial crisis, inflation is still a problem. I believe we could see substantial increases in the prices of consumer goods and the price of privately-owned flats will go up at an alarming rate.
This will adversely affect the incomes and purchasing power of Hong Kong people. Private developers, nowadays, often prefer the luxury end of the market, building estates with high-quality material and even providing a clubhouse.
This may be okay for the middle and upper classes. However, it will make it difficult for people below these income groups to buy private flats.
I believe the problem for this group of people can be solved by reintroducing the HOS.
As HOS flats are relatively cheaper, they would be able to afford these properties.
It gives more people the opportunity to own their flats.
This would have a positive knock-on effect.
Some public housing residents who had enough saved could buy an HOS flat and this would make more flats available in the public housing sector and help people on low incomes.
In reality, the private sector usually provides a much higher quality of flats. Moreover, they aim at different groups of citizens from the HOS flats.
There are certain constraints on HOS flat applicants.
Therefore, it doesn't cause a direct competition.
It is the primary responsibility of the government to cater to the needs of the people of Hong Kong.
Offering HOS flats can be a boon for many of our citizens and help maintain social stability, so why are we still hesitating?
Joseph Poon Ka-lam, Wan Chai
On other matters ...
Why does 'Asia's world city' have a downtown that looks like the third world?
Take the intersection of Wyndham and Wellington streets, for example.
Thousands of tourists and visiting businesspeople pass by every week, and what do they see but shabby piles of old boxes and plastic, piled on carts chained to the ubiquitous anti-pedestrian barriers. Lately, the piles of refuse have been spreading and now they encompass both sides of the street.
If this is part of our urban waste management system, it is woefully in need of updating.
Perhaps the government would like to spend some of its huge surplus on actually making this city look like a classy joint, instead of a squatter settlement? And why does a passer-by like me even have to make this complaint - don't the responsible officials have eyes?
John Medeiros, North Point