Housing minister warns against 'panic-buying' of flats

Housing chief warns would-be homeowners to bide their time, with new measures set to take effect and supply 'to double' in next few years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 4:20am

Budding homeowners should not panic and rush to buy new flats because supply will double in the coming years, the housing minister said yesterday.

Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the 10 measures announced by the government on Thursday to increase short-term housing supply would be enough to meet demand.

Cheung said in a radio interview that 65,000 new private flats would go on the market in the next three to four years, adding up to 16,000 flats a year.

That will be double the average annual supply for the past four years. "So if people need to buy a home, but not urgently, they don't need to panic and [rush to] buy flats," Cheung said.

Figures showed the public were already following his advice.

Centaline Property Agency said secondary home sales fell 40 per cent over the weekend in the 10 biggest estates it monitors. It recorded only 27 sales, down from 45 the weekend before.

Midland Realty also reported a quieter weekend, reporting 36 sales in the 15 biggest estates it tracks, a fall of 18 per cent.

The new measures included the launch early next year of the sale of 830 Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats in Tin Shui Wai, which were put on hold due to a building problem in 2000.

Another is the discounted sale of 1,000 flats in Tsing Yi under the My Home Purchase Plan to families earning less HK$40,000 a month. Asked to comment on criticism that the measures did not go far enough to rein in prices and speculation, Cheung said the special stamp duty introduced in 2010 to discourage resales would help to ease the situation.

Speaking during a different session of the same programme, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor emphasised that the 10 measures were only the first step to achieving a "consistent housing supply".

She said: "In the 15 years since the handover, the housing [problem] has tortured [Hongkongers] … [property prices] have risen and fallen dramatically. This has troubled a lot of people. So this administration is determined to deal with the problem."

She dismissed rumours that property developers' interests influenced how the government tackled the issue.

"This administration will not put the developers' reactions and views about our policies first. The most important thing is citizens' expectations of us, and how the government should help solve the problems they face."

Property developer Hopewell Holdings' chairman Gordon Wu Ying-sheung suggested the government should reclaim land in rural areas to boost supply.

"Of course, I'm not talking about reclamation of Victoria Harbour, but in rural areas where the seas are very shallow," Wu said, adding that the new towns of Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan were built on reclaimed land.