Steep management fees defeat purpose of providing affordable homes
High property prices make home ownership a distant goal for many Hongkongers. Even for those who can afford it, the goal is achieved only with great effort. Emptying one's savings for a down payment is usually just the beginning. Mortgage repayments can be so steep they often eat up a big chunk of monthly incomes. Those priced out of the private market can only turn to government-subsidised housing schemes. Still, these flats are not always as affordable as they should be.
The latest subsidised project in Tai O attracted 12,500 applications, even though only 85 flats are up for grabs. Tucked away in a remote corner of Lantau Island, Tin Lee Court was converted from a 19-year-old single public housing block and flats are selling at bargain prices of between HK$641,100 and HK$897,300. This translates into monthly repayments of about HK$2,500 to HK$3,600 for a 25-year mortgage. Good value as it sounds, there is a catch - a monthly management fee of about HK$2,000 for each flat. At HK$4.27 per square foot, the fee is higher than those for luxurious residential sites such as Bel-Air in Pok Fu Lam and The Cullinan in West Kowloon, which are equipped with clubhouses and other facilities.
That the management fee costs nearly as much as the mortgage repayment defies common sense. The Housing Authority explained that no management companies came forward initially. The high fee is a result of a small number of households sharing fixed costs. For cheaper service, residents have to go through standing procedures to replace the firm.
The authority admitted that the management fee was not taken into account when the remote block was converted. It's a pity that the authority learned its lesson in a way that undermines residents' interests. Some prospective buyers are having second thoughts because of the high management fee. Officials have to ensure that such fees for future projects will not go over the top. Otherwise it defeats the purpose of providing affordable housing to low-income earners.