Help urged for poor flat buyers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:00am

Some Housing Authority members are pushing for a relaunch of the Home Ownership Scheme, to build flats for sale to the less well-off in the wake of surging property prices.

The subsidised housing scheme was scrapped in 2002 amid pressure from private developers.

But at a special meeting of the authority yesterday, some members warned the property market had shown signs of getting out of control.

Authority member Fred Li Wah-ming said: 'Flat prices have gone crazily high. Ordinary families cannot afford a flat of their own.

'If we can attract more tenants on public rental estates to buy Home Ownership Scheme flats, they can also vacate their rental units for the needy on the waiting list.'

Under the defunct scheme, the government used to build flats and sell them at a discount on market prices to eligible households below prescribed asset and income limits.

But flat prices and rents have been steadily rising in recent months, prompting calls for the government to revive the scheme.

Another authority member, Chan Kam-lam, who supports the relaunching of the scheme, said: 'The government has a responsibility to look after the needs of lowerincome families.'

Mr Li agreed: 'Selling some 2,000 to 4,000 HOS units every year wouldn't harm the private market.'

But some members opposed the idea. Shih Wing-ching said the government did not have a responsibility to help people to own homes, and he urged it to increase the land supply to ease the pressure on prices.

In March, Eva Cheng, the housing minister and authority chairwoman, said any plan to relaunch the scheme needed careful consideration.

Officials are expected to spell out the government position at an open authority meeting next month.