Housing Society off beam, lawmakers say
The Housing Society has come under fire for 'straying from its mission' as it introduced two upmarket elderly housing projects to lawmakers yesterday.
The non-profit-making body - second to the Housing Authority as a subsidised-flats provider - should stick to its role of helping low-income Hongkongers rather than well-off retirees, said members of the Legislative Council's housing panel.
The society said its 'joyous living' developments at North Point and Tin Shui Wai were experiments aimed at setting an example for developers.
The projects, which will provide 1,600 flats by 2016, are expected to charge tenants one-off rentals starting from about HK$3 million.
'It's true that middle-class retirees have their own needs,' panel chairman and democrat Lee Wing-tat said. 'But if they already have an asset worth a few million dollars, they can't be faring too badly even if you don't do anything for them.
'You should focus on those with the most urgent housing needs because we are short of land resources.'
Lee said the government should also work with the society to identify sites for affordable public housing projects.
Abraham Razack, representing the real estate and construction sector, said the society had strayed from its charter.
He questioned whether it was necessary to include a 200-room hotel in the Tin Shui Wai project.
He said the space could be used to relocate those living in subdivided flats in old buildings.
Leung Yiu-chung, of the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre, said the society should help deliver more public rental flats.
He said single people had to wait for as long as six years to be allocated a flat, compared to three years for other applicants.
Wong Kit-loong, the society's chief executive, said the upmarket projects were backed by a consultants' survey that found there was a demand for flats for the elderly with tailor-made facilities and services.
'We will remain committed to serving low- and middle-income groups,' Wong said.
Separately, Stewart Leung Chi-kin, chairman of the executive committee of the Real Estate Developers Association, called for delaying a proposed ban on using gross floor area - the size of a flat plus its share of common areas - in marketing materials.
Leung said developers should be allowed to retain their current practice during a transitional period after a new law that regulates the sale of new flats takes effect as planned next year. This would avoid confusion, as it would still be permissible to use gross floor area in selling secondary-market flats, Leung said.