Homes-for-Hongkongers plan will extend to their resale

Policy to help local homebuyers by barring non-residents from buying some flats will also extend to their resale, housing minister says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 2:38am

A much-awaited scheme to restrict sales of some new homes to Hong Kong buyers will be extended to the resale of those flats, the housing minister said yesterday.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the sales ban would be extended to safeguard the policy dubbed "Hong Kong property for Hong Kong residents". Otherwise buyers could quickly defeat its purpose by immediately reselling the flats to mainlanders.

Cheung was elaborating on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's announcement last week of 10 measures to cool the property market. Leung said the sales ban would be launched after legal drafting was completed and the new restrictions were added to land leases of new sites for sale to private developers.

"The purpose is to cater to Hong Kong residents' aspirations for home ownership," Cheung said. "If some locals resell the homes to outsiders soon after they buy them, will people call the policy nominally dead?

"We have to face that question, and it is a matter of enforcement. The cross-bureau taskforce is looking into the issues."

Asked if the ban is to be permanent once applied to a site, or whether it would last only for a few years, Cheung (pictured) said the matter is under study.

"We don't want people to exploit legal loopholes." he said.

The study is also considering whether companies should be allowed to buy such properties, among other issues.

The sales ban will probably regulate projects run by public bodies, including the Urban Renewal Authority, in order to be consistent at the policy level, Cheung added.

A URA spokesman said it would work with the government to execute the measures. But the new scheme will probably not apply to 3,400 flats that the URA will put up for sale in the next five years, since their land grant conditions have been finalised.

It could, however, apply to the large Kwun Tong Town Centre redevelopment, which is due to go to tender shortly.

Some people in the property sector have warned that the sales ban would push mainlanders to buy properties that fall outside the policy, pushing up those prices.

"These views make sense," Cheung said. "Ultimately, if the housing supply is limited, many government measures cannot achieve their aims. That's why the new administration's housing policy is supply-oriented."

The Real Estate Developers Association said it was not aware of Cheung's latest ideas and could not comment. Earlier, the chairman of its executive committee, Stewart Leung Chi-kin, had said he feared the intervention would limit freedom to invest in property.