Housing Society faces criticism over high cost of new cross-generation flats

Legislators tell Housing Society to help the poor, rather than profit from redevelopment projects

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 4:48am

A new housing estate to promote cross-generation living and to be sold at market price by the Housing Society was criticised by lawmakers yesterday.

With some describing the new model as a "gimmick to speed up sales", most lawmakers said the society should help the poor instead of profiting from redevelopment projects.

"I think you would have helped more old people if you built nursing homes instead of elderly flats. The government should review and distinguish the role of the society from the Urban Renewal Authority," the Labour Party's Lee Cheuk-yan told senior Housing Society executives at a Legislative Council housing panel meeting.

I think you would have helped more old people if you built nursing homes instead of elderly flats. The government should review the role of the society from the Urban Renewal Authority

Under a model implemented in Shau Kei Wan, buyers who wish to live with their aged parents in the same estate will be given priority to choose a flat on lower storeys, which will be restricted for rental to the elderly.

The project is a redevelopment from a mixed development dating from 2008. The flats will go on the market by the end of this year. The project will offer 274 flats, of which 60 are for rent.

Wong Kit-loong, the society's chief executive, said the flats had to be be sold and rented at market price as they are part of the redevelopment project launched under the Urban Renewal Ordinance and did not receive any subsidies from the government.

Earlier estimates made by property agents indicated that the largest flat of 600 sq ft could be sold for more than HK$7 million, given that private flats in the same district were sold at HK$12,000 per square foot.

The high price triggered criticism from some legislators yesterday, who said that the project had deviated from the society's past provision of affordable housing.

"The society as a non-profit making organisation should invest in projects helping the poor instead of maximising its profits," said Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki.

"Private developers can do your job if the flats are sold at market price," Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a Federation of Trade Unions legislator.

Tony Tse Wai-chuen, architectural, surveying and planning legislator, said he appreciated the idea of encouraging cross-generation living but the government should look into whether the society should be launching upmarket projects.

But Wong said apart from providing affordable housing, the society had a role in filling the gap between the government and the private market.

Residential flats designed for the "sandwich-class" in the 1990s was one example of this, he said.

He said the redevelopment in Shau Kei Wan was one of the six renewal projects co-developed with the Urban Renewal Authority under a memorandum signed in 2002. The society was set up in 1948 to help the government solve housing problems.