Hong Kong housing

Kuk mortgage call for indigenous villagers hits a brick wall

Hong Kong development chief urges prudence in tapping public coffers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 1:09pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 10:25pm

A request by a top Heung Yee Kuk leader for the government to offer mortgages to indigenous New Territories villagers so they can build small houses has been turned down.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said the government has to be prudent when utilising funds from the public coffers, adding that many in the city – and not just rural villagers – are trying to become homeowners.

“I’m sorry, it’s not feasible,” he said of the suggestion during an appearance on a local radio programme on Saturday.

The idea was floated by kuk chairman Kenneth Lau Ip-keung on Tuesday during a meeting with Secretary for Home Affairs Secretary Lau Kong-wah.

Kenneth Lau is set to enter the Legislative Council in September, taking over the seat of his father Lau Wong-fat in the kuk constituency after standing uncontested.

I’m sorry, it’s not feasible
Paul Chan Mo-po, development secretary

The powerful kuk leader suggested the government offer low-interest loans to male indigenous villagers so they can purchase land in the New Territories and exercise their “ding” rights to build three-storey dwellings of their own.

Under the government’s small-house policy, each certified male indigenous villager has the right to build one house within a village or agricultural area at a maximum height of three storeys, with each storey measuring no larger than 700 square feet.

Villagers are prohibited from selling the right and can sell the house only five years after it is built. If they wish to sell within five years, they need to pay the government a premium.

Kuk vice-chairman Daniel Lam Wai-keung said on Friday that many villagers cannot afford to borrow money from private ­finance companies due to high ­interest rates.

The rural chief offered the suggestion to tackle the illegal sale of such rights to developers for profit, which has led to heated exchanges between villagers and the government in recent years as those who engage in the practice say there is nothing wrong with it.

A developer and 11 indigenous villagers were jailed for up to three years in December for a scam in which they sold their land rights under the small-house policy for a profit.