The government's new housing target was challenged yesterday by lawmakers who said the estimate was too low.
They said the objective of building 470,000 flats in the next decade did not take into account a rising population, smaller households and the impact of immigrants.
Members of a Legislative Council housing sub-committee asked why the target had not risen with the population, citing annual targets of 72,333 units and 85,000 units set in 1987 and 1998 respectively.
"The city had a population of only 6.5 million and households of 3.3 persons during Tung Chee-hwa's administration. Now our population has increased to more than seven million and the number of people per household has dropped to 2.9; theoretically we need more flats," Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said.
"Are you rejecting Tung's research? Can you explain the discrepancies?"
Pro-government lawmaker Leung Che-cheung asked whether the latest target took into account housing demand from new immigrants.
"Would it be more precise if we looked at the housing problem together with the population policy?" he asked.
A committee on long-term housing strategy led by Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung released the target for the next 10 years early this month. Another committee, led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, is expected to consult the public next month on ways to cope with the city's ageing population.
Kwok Wai-keung, of the Federation of Trade Unions, asked if the two committees had compared their information before coming to the conclusion.
"The report doesn't mention how young people will be encouraged to form their own families," he said. "Many of them do not consider having babies because they have to spend half their lives paying off a mortgage. Flats are unaffordable."
Another pro-government lawmaker, Christopher Chung Shu-kun, also described the target as "too conservative".
Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, of the Labour Party, said the new target might not even address the demand from the 234,300 applicants waiting for a public flat - a figure that is expected to keep rising.
The government said about 282,000 flats - 60 per cent of the 470,000 target - would be public rental and subsidised flats. But it had not decided the proportion of subsidised flats.
Anthony Cheung declined to comment on the previous targets, saying the projected increase in new households was not as significant as the increase in past years.
Director of housing Duncan Pescod added that the massive production of flats in Tung's era was to meet the pledge of allocating a public flat to applicants within three years.
According to the report, the new calculation considered the projected increase in households, the number of people affected by redevelopment projects, those living in subdivided flats, and overseas students receiving education in Hong Kong.
Anthony Cheung said some younger applicants queuing for a public flat might drop their applications after finding higher-paid jobs. He said about 7,000 flats were returned to the Housing Authority each year.
Last night he told a consultation forum the government would take into account quality of life when planning how to boost flat supply.
This meant town planning guidelines would not be compromised when looking for sites on public estates to build extra blocks for single people, he said.