A HOUSING watchdog group today claimed that 8,130 flats offered for sale under the Home Ownership Scheme at a 45 per cent discount were still too expensive for most people. The rate for the flats at Fanling, Tsz Wan Shan, Shau Kei Wan, Ma On Shan and Sau Mau Ping compares with a 48 per cent discount in two previous schemes. Virginia Ip Chiu-ping, spokesman for the Hong Kong People's Council on Public Housing Policy, said the flats were 'still beyond buyers' means'. But the Government insisted that in real terms prices were unchanged because of the property market's recent downturn. 'When two or three years ago there was a surge in private property prices we had to offer a higher discount rate to keep the selling price lower in return,' said Marco Wu Moon-hoi, Senior Assistant Director of Housing. 'Since the property market has gone downhill, we think it is a prime chance to adjust the discount rate again. But the final selling prices will not be affected.' Prices range from $634,300 for a 501 square-foot flat in Fanling to $1.59 million for an 828 square-foot home in Tsz Wan Shan. All projects belong to the Home Ownership Scheme, except the one in Fanling, which is managed by a private contractor. One third of the 8,130 flats will be allocated to buyers with household incomes of less than $25,000 a month, raised from a previous threshold of $22,000, while the rest are for public tenants who will not be subject to income limits. Mr Wu said the five projects would prove attractive to buyers. But Miss Ip said: 'We always uphold the principle that the prices should not be determined by market value but production costs. 'When a number of flats offered in the last scheme were not sold quickly, it reflected clearly that the price was set at a level which was out of buyers' range. 'Another lukewarm response should also be expected this time since purchasing power has not improved much.' Almost a quarter of the 8,168 flats put on the market last November remained unsold in early February as some shortlisted applicants decided not to purchase. In previous sales such flats have usually sold out within three months. Applications for the 8,130 flats close on April 27 and a computer ballot will be held next month to draw successful applicants.