Home loans 'not on the cards for first-time buyers'

Government won't offer mortgages to increase ownership even though it remains mindful of public aspirations, says housing minister

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 3:12am

The housing minister, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, said the government had yet to consider offering loans for first-time buyers, despite the idea being floated at a meeting of an advisory panel yesterday.

Cheung's comments came as he tried to play down rumours about government measures to increase home ownership after yesterday's second meeting of the Long-Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee.

He said the government would not set a rigid home ownership target even though it was mindful of public aspirations of owning a flat.

Instead of setting the agenda for the committee, which was established in September, the secretary for transport and housing said he had invited members to list topics for discussion. The bureau would also commission universities to conduct focus-group studies next year to gauge the public's housing needs.

Committee member Michael Choi Ngai-min said he had urged the government to offer loans to first-time buyers in one to two years when flat supply was sufficient, easing the burden of large mortgages among the middle class. He also suggested increasing the number of subsidised flats from 5,000 to 15,000 a year.

But Cheung said after the meeting that the government had not considered offering loans to first-time buyers. "If the overall housing supply is not sufficient, any scheme of this kind will drive up the property prices."

He also said the government was monitoring speculation in commercial properties and car-parking spaces to ensure they would not upset the economy.

In the face of opposition from developers who complained about the recent introduction of buyers' stamp duty, Cheung said he would not make any comment until he received the proposal from the Real Estate Developers Association this month.

"The property market has been stabilised, or cooled down after the implementation of the two policies [toughening up the special stamp duty and the new buyers' stamp duty]," he said. "More time is needed to measure the ultimate result."

Developers complained that the buyers' stamp duty, which covers corporate purchasers, is unfair to people who want to keep their transactions private and those who acquire properties in the names of family trusts. Some called for an exemption if buyers held the properties for at least three years.