PROPERTY The supply of new private-sector flats is expected to reach 21,500 in the next financial year, compared with the previous forecast of 26,798 for the 1997 calendar year. To tackle housing shortages in the long run, Mr Tsang announced the setting up of a taskforce, chaired by himself, to oversee land supply and property development. 'The relevant policy secretaries will join me in this new initiative. We will start our work shortly,' he said. He said there would be about 63,000 new public and private flats available on the market in the next financial year. Of these, 21,500 would be produced by the private sector with the rest to be generated from either public housing or government-subsidised flats. The Rating and Valuation Department forecast in its Hong Kong Property Review 1996 a supply of 26,798 private flats for the period between January and December 1997. Despite a three-month difference in the period under review, analysts said the figures indicated private housing supply would fall short of expectations. A spokesman for the Housing Branch said the revised figure was based on the indications provided by developers and information from different government departments. 'Based on the latest information, the production of 26,000-plus new flats is too high,' he said, adding that revision was made necessary by delays in completions of private developments. But he said the actual supply could turn out to be different from the forecast, based on today's indications. SBC Warburg's Franklin Lam said the proposal for a taskforce on land supply would not cool speculation. 'It's too late,' said Mr Lam, adding that the market was already overheated. He predicted about 22,000 private flats would come on the market this year. Supply would reach between 31,000 and 32,000 units next year, he said. Secretary for Housing Dominic Wong Shing-wah had projected private flat supply would reach about 36,000 next year. But the Real Estate Developers' Association welcomed the taskforce proposal. Lo Ka-shui, chairman of the association's executive committee, said Mr Tsang had taken 'a big step in the right direction' to streamline and speed property development and redevelopment processing procedures which had become more complicated and time-consuming. Mr Lo said the lack of central co-ordination in the Government had given rise to processing problems.