Low-cost housing sites still not picked

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2011, 12:00am

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The Housing Society remains in the dark about three of the five locations where it is supposed to build subsidised homes for rent or purchase under a scheme announced by the government more than a year ago.

One project, in Sha Tin, is still being discussed with the government, and only one, in Tsing Yi, is making good progress - the society will accept applications for homes there next year and construction will be completed in 2014.

All five projects come under the My Home Purchase Plan, which Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen unveiled in October last year as a relief measure for would-be homeowners who earn up to HK$40,000 a month, to give them time to save up.

The government said it had earmarked sites in five districts to deliver 5,000 flats in total. The society, a non-profit organisation and the city's second-biggest provider of subsidised housing after the Housing Authority, was asked to handle the project.

But Wong Kit-loong, the society's chief executive, expressed concerns that the Sha Tin site, which included a big slope, would incur huge maintenance costs for future home owners.

'Some say the site should not be used for My Home Purchase Plan. The Transport and Housing Bureau has not given us the site yet,' Wong said yesterday.

'As for where the remaining three projects will be, we don't know yet.'

The society had earlier indicated financial uncertainties surrounding the housing scheme.

A bureau spokesman said it was not possible for the Sha Tin project to proceed as fast as the Tsing Yi one, because the society would have to conduct studies on the need to carry out slope stabilisation works. He said the government had started preparatory work for the other projects.

When the scheme was announced, the government said applicants could rent the flats for as long as five years at a fixed amount. After the tenancy expired they could choose to use half of the total rent paid towards a down payment to buy a home at the project or elsewhere.

The government revised the scheme two months ago to guarantee a 'ceiling price' for buyers regardless of any rise in property prices within two years of the tenancy's end.

The society predicted that the ceiling price would encourage most applicants to exploit the five-year tenancy as much as possible in order to have more time to save up. But this would increase the time required by the society to recoup construction costs through flat sales.

Lee Wing-tat, chairman of Legislative Council's housing panel, said the government should release more details as soon as possible to clear doubts that My Home Purchase Plan would be aborted after the Tsing Yi project was completed.

Meanwhile, the society is recruiting social workers to help identify elderly tenants afflicted with depression or dementia who are unaware of their condition. Two social workers have been employed and the society plans to have each district served by a social worker.

20

The number of rental estates owned by the Housing Society

- The estates have 90,000 residents, one third of them elderly