Private sector can help meet housing demand, say experts

Experts say firms can provide some of 447,000 units needed in next decade 'cheaper and faster'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 5:15am

Private developers should be invited to help the government build the 447,000 new homes needed in the next decade, housing advisers say.

Demand for half these homes will come from the grass-roots, and some believe that the private sector can provide subsidised homes more quickly and cheaply than the government.

The advisers put forward the suggestion at a meeting of the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee yesterday as they were briefed on the latest housing demand forecast.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, who chairs the committee, said after the meeting the projection was reasonable and reflected the "real demand" because property investment was excluded.

"It's hard to get a 100 per cent correct figure because there can be lots of changes in society and the economy in 10 years. We will update our estimate regularly," Cheung said.

The forecast was based on four estimates over the coming decade. These were: a net increase in the total number of households by 290,000; the 20,000 families who need to be rehoused as a result of urban redevelopment; the 70,000 people who live in poor conditions and need better housing; and 30,000 mainlanders coming to work or study.

Cheung would not confirm media reports a day earlier, which said the government would need to build 221,800 public rental flats over the coming decade - 25 per cent more than the current construction target.

Committee member Lau Ping-cheung said half of the forecast demand would be for public housing. He suggested, and most members agreed, that officials should invite private developers to help deliver subsidised homes for sale under the Home Ownership Scheme.

"Past experience tells us that developers do a cheaper and quicker job in subsidised housing," Lau said, referring to the Private Sector Participation Scheme that was halted in 2002.

The latest forecast means there should be 44,700 new homes on the market every year.

This is not a big increase from the current annual supply target of 20,000 public housing units and 20,000 private homes.

The committee meets on Saturday to discuss the housing mix.