Subsidised housing comes first, says authority adviser Stanley Wong

Government urged to scrap middle-class housing scheme and help the less well-off

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 9:50am

A leading adviser says the government should abandon a plan to devise a new housing scheme for the middle-class and instead focus its resources on boosting the supply of subsidised homes for less well-off groups.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post on Monday, Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, newly appointed as the chair of the Housing Authority's subsidised housing committee, said it was important to allocate public resources to the most needy, given the land shortage problem would last for at least a few years.

"It's just like fighting a war. You can't start on too many fronts in a battlefield. You have to concentrate fire to solve problems," said Wong, who retired last year as director and deputy general manager at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia).

Wong will today chair the first committee meeting since being appointed in August to discuss several housing measures.

"In my view, the most important task is to first satisfy those who need public rental housing. They are at the bottom of the social ladder and some live on welfare. Another key task is to help the slightly better-off class who are unable to find a home in the private market to buy their own flat under the Home Ownership Scheme [HOS]."

He disagreed there was a need for a plan announced by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying two weeks ago to work out a new subsidised housing scheme. It was to serve families that earn more than HK$30,000 and are too well-off for HOS but not rich enough to buy a home in the private market. The new plan, to be discussed by another committee, would replace the rent-or-buy My Home Purchase Plan, launched by the last administration and deemed as too complicated.

Referring to the long waiting list for public housing, which now has 189,500 applications, Wong expected it would become difficult for the authority to uphold the pledge of allocating applicants a home within three years. Leung's election vow to extend the pledge to single applicants over the age of 35 would make it even harder. Wong suggested the annual production goal of 15,000 had to be raised to 20,000 to uphold the pledge.

Resources should also be spent on expanding the HOS to ensure that 20,000 flats, rather than the planned 17,000, will be delivered in the four years between 2016 and 2020. "There may be no need to set up a new programme on top of HOS, as it might become an overlap with the private market."

Wong also said officials should resort to the previous method of calculating the resale premium of HOS flats and scrap the new rules to reduce financial uncertainty for buyers.

Meanwhile, Wong's committee will today discuss arrangements for choosing 5,000 people by ballot to buy second-hand HOS flats at a discount. It will consider whether the batch should be split, with the first half able to buy in January and the second in January 2014. They cannot resell flats in two years.