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Hong Kong housing

Fix Hong Kong’s housing crisis? Leader-in-waiting Carrie Lam may have just the man in Frank Chan Fan

Described by fellow engineers as “responsive and capable” in handling government affairs, questions remain as to whether Chan stands a chance of solving city’s housing crunch

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 9:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 9:00am

Hong Kong’s next leader may have found the man for one of the toughest jobs in government – tackling the housing crisis and managing the growing transport network.

Frank Chan Fan, currently director of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, will be the next secretary for housing and transport, according to multiple sources.

Despite described by fellow engineers as “responsive” and “capable” in handling government affairs, questions remain as to whether Chan stands a chance of solving Hong Kong’s housing crunch.

Policy think tank Land Watch chairman Lee Wing-tat said: “The new housing minister needs to be able to come up with innovative methods to tackle the housing problem. If you follow what Leung Chun-ying has done in the past five years, there won’t be any breakthrough in the situation.”

The government has already admitted it will likely fall short of meeting its housing supply target of building 460,000 flats in the next decade.

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Thousand face an average wait of four years and seven months to get into public housing in a city where property prices and rent are among the most unaffordable in the world.

Other challenges with the job include dealing with a joint checkpoint arrangement for the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou with mainland authorities, and a number of delayed and overbudgeted infrastructure projects.

Chan declined to comment on the appointment, but did not deny the reports in a response to Post inquiries.

He joined the government in 1982 as an assistant electronics engineer and has risen through the ranks to head the authority that oversees safety regulation of electricity and gas, and lift and escalator operations.

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Chan has handled a number of critical incidents during his tenure, the most recent one was when the city’s longest escalator broke down, leaving 18 people injured in one of the busiest shopping malls.

He has also had a fair share of fielding tough questions when dozens of taxis and minibuses running on Sinopec liquefied petroleum gas had problems with stalling engines in 2010.

Engineers who have come to know Chan personally say he is a good candidate for the position.

“His professional training as an engineer will help him with policymaking in many ways,” said Peter Wong Yiu-sun, a former president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers.

“An engineer’s work is knowing how to execute plans based on facts and data for all infrastructure projects, no matter big or small.

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“The government needs more professionally trained people as policymakers, whether its doctors, lawyers or engineers. You can talk all you want, but what is key is how one implements things, and professionals do exactly that.”

Wong described him as “frank”, “understanding” and “responsive” in his work in the government, having known him for at least two decades, adding that his colleagues had praised him for being a good boss.

Choy Kin-kuen, who has also come to know Chan through the institution, said Chan had made a number of contributions, especially with training young engineers to join the industry.