No matter how determined past administrations have been to solve Hong Kong's public housing problem, the difficulties in the sector are likely to continue to be a fact of life for some years to come. The Governor's pledge to cut waiting lists has not been fulfilled, and the goal seems as distant as ever at a time when more immigrants are arriving. Still, there are factors which may lessen the crisis. As Hong Kong's population becomes increasingly upwardly mobile, more couples seek to buy rather than rent, and government policy encourages this trend with schemes which give lower income families loans to enable them to realise their housing dream. The negative part of the picture is the widespread abuse of the system. There are some 150,000 families on the waiting list, many of them living in sub-standard accommodation. But another 70,000 families who own private property remain in public housing. It is simply unacceptable that property owners should stay on in public housing, subsidised by the taxpayer, while poorer families cram themselves into substandard accommodation. It is also necessary to raise rents for tenants who can afford to pay. Predictably, the suggestion of large increases in the consultative document from the Housing Department has already drawn criticism. Estimates say that up to 50 per cent of tenants will be affected, though rises will be based on income and affordability. So long as those in need are not penalised, and providing the increase does not unduly affect people in the older estates with fewer amenities, the Department's approach is reasonable. Private sector prices indicate the drain from the public purse to the housing programme. The average subsidy is $230 per month per flat, and the value of land granted to the Housing Authority amounts to $130 billion. This has to be offset, and public housing confined to those who need it. There must be adequate release of land if 80,000 flats are to be built annually. The proposal to invite developers to build more subsidised homes in mixed developments may be less workable, but the Government should certainly monitor the private market to protect genuine buyers from speculators and market manipulation.