Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am

We're all being squeezed on the homes front

Are you still angry? Are you still fuming over our arrogant tycoons, overpaid public officials and sky-high home prices? Well, here's something else to get you mad as hell. It's got to do with the Housing Society. Never heard of it? Don't worry, not many people have. It's a non-governmental organisation with a do-good mission to help the so-called sandwich class buy affordable homes. And how do you do that? You put affordable homes on the market for them to buy, of course. But that simple logic has escaped the do-gooders at the Housing Society. They haven't put any homes on the market for two years now. They've been hoarding them instead. Hundreds of flats have been kept empty while sandwich-class families struggle to find affordable homes. Public Eye couldn't figure out why until this thought hit us: are the do-gooders hoarding them to drive up prices? The more flats on the market, the cheaper the prices. Our greedy developers know this logic well. That's why they always put flats on the market at a trickle to drive up prices. Our government, which is supposed to be working for the people but works instead for the developers, knows this logic well, too. Why else would it refuse to build any more Home Ownership Scheme flats for the middle class? Actually, 'refuse' is the wrong word. It doesn't dare build them. Flooding the market with affordable homes would drive down prices. That would get the developers real mad. So you see, they're all in it together - the government, the Housing Society and the developers, all squeezing the people. No wonder we have a sandwich class in Hong Kong. We're all being squeezed.

Time for some Housing Society answers

Having hoarded vacant homes for two years, the Housing Society now says it'll put up about 450 for sale. Nice timing, since the market is red hot. That'll guarantee top dollar. To fit its role as a do-gooder, the society offers a discount from the going market rate. But if the market rate is at an insane level, as it is now, a discount means little. It is still robbing the poor. What Public Eye wants to know from the Housing Society is this: how many vacant flats does it have? And why aren't they all being put on the market at the same time?

Why this lack of interest in renewal?

If you're one of those desperate people from the sandwich class in need of an affordable roof over your head, don't bother turning to the Urban Renewal Authority. It isn't interested in you. The URA, even though it is taxpayer-financed, prefers profits to people like you. You can only afford to live on the poor side of town. But the URA would much rather team up with the tycoons to build luxury flats in upscale areas for the rich. It loves wealthy mainlanders who come here with bagfuls of cash to snap up flats at lunatic prices. Why else do you think the URA didn't bother with the To Kwa Wan slum area where a rundown building collapsed, killing four people? The slum was ripe for renewal, but the URA wasn't interested. Would it care, or dare, to tell us why?

When there aren't enough hours in a day

Come on, people, let's not be too harsh on Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng. The lady's been getting a fistful of flak lately. OK, she made a big show of being on Facebook to interact with Hong Kong's disgruntled younger generation. And OK, she ended up doing it for just three hours and she didn't actually communicate with any of the youngsters. But you have to remember, she's a bureaucrat. And bureaucrats are not paid to communicate with the people. Besides, three hours is already a long time. OK, so it's not as long as the time they spend in their chauffeured cars or at lunches in swanky restaurants at your expense. But hey, there are just so many hours in a day.