Hong Kong housing

Officials fail to tackle property tycoons

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 4:52pm

The Home Ownership Scheme and the My Home Purchase Plan are an official admission that the government's land policy fails to provide homes that match both the space requirements and the pockets of Hong Kong citizens.

For far too long, the government has been addicted to revenue from selling land to the highest bidder without any regard to the end use, or end user.

The handful of property companies that can afford to purchase land have been allowed to dictate to government, and this is the single most serious indictment against Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration.

It has created intolerable living conditions for thousands of citizens who contributed their working lives to the betterment of Hong Kong only to see all rewards for those many years of labour going into the pockets of those few tycoons.

Capitalist businessmen will by nature maximise profit and attempt to create a monopoly, or, failing that, a cartel. It is the purpose of government to moderate in the interests of the overall community and the government has failed miserably.

It should be responsible for basic public housing for rental to the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society. The private sector should supply appropriate homes for everyone else.

The government's HOS and My Home scheme are untenable and unjustifiable halfway houses. Essentially, public money is subsidising some people and not others. Such discrimination is poor governance.

Expedient action by government in 1972 created the New Territories small-house policy, intended as a short-term administrative measure. However, under pressure from vested interests, our weak-kneed officials have seemingly allowed this to morph into a right.

This vested interest is keenly protected by Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat, a former member of the Executive Council who still holds influence as a Legislative Council member and chairman of its development panel. To my thinking, that represents too much influence, and Mr Lau's recent statement that he would consider change to the policy after 2047 was astonishing chutzpah.

The government's expedient action to create these subsidised housing schemes will similarly make a rod for our own backs.

Revenue collection and land policies need a fundamental change. However, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's performance since 2007 indicates that he will only tweak and tinker at the fringes rather than go to the heart of the matter.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels