Housing Authority members seek more resources, greener methods

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2009, 12:00am

Housing Authority members have urged the government to ensure an adequate supply of land for public-housing estates, prepare for challenges from the economic crisis and adopt a greener approach to building.

Members raised the concerns at the authority's annual special open meeting yesterday.

Anthony Cheung Bing-leung cast doubt on the government's pledge to place a three-year limit on the amount of time applicants must wait to secure public housing, saying the number of applicants seemed to have been on the rise over the past year.

In the first three months of this year, more than 9,700 people submitted applications, compared with 5,000, 8,000 and 10,000 respectively in the preceding three quarters, he said.

'It will be hard for the government to handle the increasing demand if it cannot secure more land' on which to build public housing estates, Professor Cheung said. The Housing Department said earlier it planned to build 15,000 public housing units over each of the coming five years.

Another member, Stephen Yip Moon-wah, was concerned about 'biases' against public-housing construction. 'Some private estate owners oppose building public-housing estates near where they live as they don't want to share public facilities, or worry of a paper loss in their properties' market price,' said Mr Yip.

Michael Choi Ngai-min raised concerns about the financial challenges the authority might face during the economic downturn.

'It's predictable that the authority's investment revenue is likely to suffer a loss in the mid to long term because of the financial tsunami. However, the number of public-housing applicants may keep growing due to a high unemployment rate,' he said.

'The authority must be prepared to deal with the challenge, as it may have to spend more on building public-housing estates while its revenue shrinks.'

Some members also suggested the government adopt more 'green ideas', such as increasing greenery on buildings' roofs, using environment-friendly building materials, and separating out trash on housing estates for recycling. The Housing Department will respond to members' concerns and inquiries at a meeting on July 17.

Several activists from the Grassroots Housing Rights Defence Alliance protested at the Housing Authority's office in Ho Man Tin yesterday, urging the authority to reveal the details of two tenants' revenue surveys it has conducted. The survey results will be used as a reference for the authority in its rent review next year.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said the surveys had been conducted in line with the Housing Ordinance and were transparent.