Developers may pitch in to build public flats in Hong Kong

Measures under discussion include rent control and units for singles

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 8:59am

Developers are likely to be enlisted to hasten the supply of affordable public flats, according to a government report to be released for public consultation this month.

For the first time since 2002, the private sector may resume its role in the construction of subsidised flats, advisers on long-term housing have proposed.

Other controversial measures up for public discussion include rent control, issuing licences for subdivided flats and creating new units in the open space of existing public estates for single applicants, the advisers say.

A member of the long-term housing strategy steering committee tried to dispel fears that participating developers might cut corners.

"The government can impose more stringent requirements on the design and building quality and ask developers to follow the rules," Professor Eddie Hui Chi-man said.

Hui cited Aldrich Garden in Shau Kei Wan and Kornhill Gardens in Quarry Bay as good examples of units produced under a now-defunct scheme that had invited private companies to build subsidised flats.

"It would be difficult for the Housing Authority to increase the supply significantly on its own," Hui said.

The Private Sector Participation Scheme was introduced in 1977 to fast-track housing construction, but it ended in 2002 when the government halted the sales of subsidised flats.

Although subsidised flats were again put on the market under the new administration this year, the scheme was not revived, partly because of long-running public perceptions of government favouritism towards developers.

Committee members say the government is determined to speed up housing supply and may put the scheme to use again, with an improved system through better flat design and stronger monitoring.

The government would set the prices of flats and developers will get the land to build on.

Private developers could build subsidised flats about 30 per cent cheaper than the government and buyers were willing to pay 20 per cent more for the properties, an academic said, citing University of Hong Kong research.

It is understood that the government's target for the next 10 years remains at 470,000 new homes - public housing for rent and sale as well as private flats - the figure announced by Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung last month.

The city targets 20,000 public and 20,000 private homes in its current annual supply.

Former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, who runs concern group Land Watch, said the new target was too conservative and might not reduce the waiting time for a home. "It is disappointing if the government can only provide a few thousand more each year. It should have identified much more land for new flats," he said.