Take mainland sting out of housing market, Exco member urges

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 May, 2011, 12:00am


An influx of mainland property buyers has become a structural problem that needs to be solved to stop Hongkongers' discontent rising further, an Executive Council member warned yesterday.

Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the government should stop worrying that building subsidised flats for sale would cause the market to plunge. It should restart the Home Ownership Scheme, under which flats were built for subsidised sale to families not wealthy enough to buy private flats.

Property prices recently passed their previous peak, set in 1997, and Cheung told a radio programme the city's housing market had now become a national market. Ever-rising prices had made it increasingly difficult for local people to buy homes, he said, with family income not keeping up with the market boom.

Flat prices rose by 9 per cent between December and March. Demand from mainland buyers is blamed by many for the pace at which home prices are rising.

Legislator Lee Wing-tat said that to make sure local people could afford to buy homes, the government should consider banning non-locals from buying mass-market homes. Mainlanders and foreigners could be restricted to the luxury market.

'They [can] spend money on buying luxury flats, commercial units, industrial estates freely. But if it involves the mass market, should there be some kind of restrictions,' he asked, pointing to those in place in countries such as Australia and Singapore.

Cheung said the suggestion could be discussed but the issue was complicated. 'If the demand is huge, the focus will fall on the luxury market when there are restrictions. If the prices surge in the luxury market, it may have an impact on small and medium-sized flats too,' he said.

Other issues might also arise, such as where to draw the line and whether or not such a policy would affect Hong Kong's free-market reputation, he said.