Panel urges restart of housing schemes
Legislators call for resumption of the HOS
A motion was passed yesterday demanding a timetable from the government to resume the Home Ownership Scheme and to sell public housing to tenants.
The motion was passed, with nine votes in support and three against, in the Legislative Council housing panel meeting.
The HOS was suspended in 2002 to stabilise the ailing property market at the time. The sale of surplus HOS flats resumed in 2006, but new property is no longer developed.
Thomas Chan Chun-yuen, permanent secretary for transport and housing, said the government had no plan to resume the HOS as there was no serious imbalance in the property market and no problem in turnover in public housing.
He said the price of private property with saleable area of about 400 sq ft was 30 per cent lower than at the peak of 1997, citing figures from the first quarter of this year.
Figures from the first four months also showed that 32 per cent of a household's income would go towards a mortgage on a 400 sq ft property if the repayments were over 20 years.
Mr Chan said this mortgage-to-household ratio was much lower than the 77 per cent in 1997 and similar to the figure between 2005 and last year.
'To relaunch the HOS, it would inevitably affect the property market and will also divert resources from the Housing Authority's ability in implementing the public housing programme,' he said.
'The Housing Authority should concentrate on supplying public housing flats for grass-roots families and satisfy their basic needs of living first.'
It was reported that Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng had said she would not change the HOS during her term of office, but Mr Chan did not confirm this when asked by legislators yesterday.
Housing panel chairman Lee Wing-tat rejected claims HOS flats would have an impact on the property market, saying there had been no slump when surplus HOS flats were put on the market in 2006.
'Now the developers only offer 'luxury apartments' for the public,' Mr Lee said. 'The properties are very expensive, even if they are located in some old districts.
'Grass-roots families cannot own any property if there is no HOS or selling of public housing.'
He supported the motion to demand a clear timetable for the resumption of the HOS and selling of public housing.
Liberal Party legislators and Abraham Razack, real estate and construction sector lawmaker, opposed the motion because, they said, they agreed that the Housing Authority's priority was on public housing.
Also in yesterday's housing panel meeting, most of the members supported the Housing Department's decision not to demolish any building in the 40-year-old Wah Fu estate as some elderly tenants have expressed wishes to stay.
The estate will undergo a HK$110 million renovation project, which is expected to extend the estate's life by 15 years.
Mr Razack suggested that some deteriorating buildings should be replaced with new homes.