House Hongkongers first before letting outsiders buy property

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 March, 2011, 12:00am

I read with dismay that the site at 21, 23 and 25 Borrett Road is expected to set a land price record because of mainlanders' continuing desire for luxury homes in Hong Kong ('Mid-Levels site could hit record HK$10.9b', March 2).

Developers will doubtless be e-mailing mainland buyers, highlighting the wonderful harbour views that this site commands.

Will they be so forthcoming about the nightmarish traffic congestion up and down Borrett Road?

However, even if they were, it would probably fail to put off mainland investors.

Just look at the number of flats in apartment blocks in West Kowloon that remain unlit at night. Poor access there does not deter mainland buyers, as they just hoard their Hong Kong property investments almost like trophies rather than living in or letting them.

The rampant property market has been the principal engine driving Hong Kong's high levels of inflation, and I am alarmed by the information that roughly half the luxury homes (those priced over HK$30 million) are sold to mainlanders.

Our financial secretary stated in his budget speech last month that inflation is his prime worry, so he should also be alarmed by this statistic.

Gaining massive revenue from land sales is counterproductive if Hong Kong's professional and middle-class residents cannot afford to buy homes when these sites are developed.

There is therefore a strong case for restricting home sales to those with permanent residency status before the credit binge in China destabilises our society.

Switzerland faced a similar situation to Hong Kong. To safeguard its citizens' interests, the government resorted to a restrictive quota system for foreign property ownership in its cantons.

Singapore (sometimes called 'the Switzerland of Asia') has followed suit.

Mainland officials are likewise taking action, and the Beijing municipal government has launched a clampdown whereby non-locals can buy only one home, and then only if they have lived in Beijing for at least five years; there are further restrictions on owning multiple homes.

Our government is the ultimate landlord of our leasehold properties, and its first duty is to take care of ordinary Hong Kong citizens.

The provision of suitable housing is a key to social stability.

Officials are neglecting that duty if they allow outsiders to constantly push up home prices so that flats are out of the reach of Hong Kong citizens. This will only stoke unrest.

The hostile reaction to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's budget proposals should be a wake-up call to our bureaucrats.

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels