Revival plan for ageing estates

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 September, 2010, 12:00am

Government-subsidised housing may be revived by redeveloping old public estates now under the management of the Housing Society, Eva Cheng said yesterday.

The Secretary for Transport and Housing said there was strong public support for resuming the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) - shelved in 2003 - as she released the preliminary results of a public consultation on ways to address growing demand for affordable homes.

She said the government was willing to work with the Housing Society to increase future flat supply. 'The [society] is studying its future plans. We are willing to work with it in providing subsidised flats and flats targeting low-income groups and the elderly,' she said.

However, Cheng warned that any subsidies would need to avoid fuelling a property bubble. She said: 'We have to adopt a careful approach.'

She said many people had expressed concern that, by encouraging people to buy their own flat, they could be left at risk if there was a property bubble in future.

Cheng said most respondents in the consultation had opposed giving a direct cash subsidy as it could encourage property speculation. They had also cautioned that some owners could face bankruptcy if interest rates rose abruptly.

Cheng said the bureau had not made a decision, although a finalised plan would be announced when Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen gave his policy address in two weeks.

The bureau's preliminary analysis of public views - collected online and from public forums - showed that more than half of the 1,500 respondents agreed that the government should provide subsidised housing as current market prices had become unaffordable and could eventually undermine social harmony.

The proposal gaining most support is to resume the HOS, which offers incentives for people to purchase second-hand subsidised flats with a rent-to-buy option.

The option allows qualified buyers to rent a flat for a specified period - for, say, three to five years - after which they would have to buy or move out. Rent paid would count towards the purchase.

Cheng said the rent-to-buy option would help people save money for a deposit.

She said the Housing Society was preparing proposals to redevelop ageing estates and the bureau would work with the group to provide subsidised housing or housing designed for rent-to-buy flats.

Seven of the 20 estates now under the management of the Housing Society were built in the 1960s. Cheng said the organisation had submitted a proposal to the bureau concerning the redevelopment of Ming Wah Dai Ha, in Shau Kei Wan, comprising 13 residential blocks that occupy a site of 406,998 square feet.

A Housing Society spokeswoman said its proposals for redeveloping Ming Wah Dai Ha included housing for the elderly.

University of Hong Kong real estate professor Chau Kwong-wing said the only effective and sustainable option to provide affordable flats was to increase land supply; the rent-to-buy option was too complicated to implement, he said.

'It could only postpone the demand for affordable flats for a few years,' he said.

Old potential

The Housing Society has submitted a proposal to redevelop Ming Wah Dai Ha, Shau Kei Wan, into affordable flats. The 406,998 sq ft site has this many blocks: 13