It is quite right for Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa to make housing a top priority issue of the post-handover government. But can surveying firm chief Leung Chun-ying really help in his new role as the head of the housing taskforce set up last week? Few people will have doubts about Mr Leung's ability, but on reading his outline of the new job one can be excused for wondering whether the exercise is at all useful for charting a sensible course for Hong Kong's housing strategy in the next century. There has been a barrage of criticism from politicians, civil servants and commentators over Mr Leung's potential conflict of interest in his new role. He has assured us that the conflict problem would not arise. Mr Leung justified his claim that there would be no problem by explaining he would not ask for confidential information from the Government, he would assume no executive functions, he would not have unilateral decision-making power and he would only be responsible for studying the macro housing strategy. What he would do, said Mr Leung, was to collect the views of the community and report back to the chief executive and the Executive Assembly. The Government is presently conducting a territory-wide exercise to solicit the community's views on the long-term housing strategy. If Mr Leung's main duty is to tap the knowledge and canvass the opinion of the community, I believe that would overlap the work the bureaucracy is already doing. There is also doubt over whether he, working on his own, would be able to compile a wider range of views than the government machinery can provide. And if he is to rely on the bureaucracy to provide the consultation findings, the question arises of what he is actually going to do if he is not recommending strategy and steering future policy direction. Mr Leung's assurance that he will not have access to confidential information should also raise eyebrows. Formulating a credible housing strategy has to take into account all the practical issues affecting the supply and demand of flats. The public and the relevant professions may not be fully aware of these practical issues because they have not had access to some sensitive confidential information, such as land data and other unique factors affecting the Government's development priorities. If, in order to pacify public concerns over his potential conflict of interest, Mr Leung has to deny himself access to confidential information which may be crucial to engineering a meaningful and feasible strategy, then is there any point in having him spending months to try to map out a workable long-term housing solution? Mr Tung has tried very hard to defend Mr Leung's appointment, but it is obvious that a number of queries have yet to be fully answered. A fundamental concern is whether Mr Leung, a prominent realtor, will recommend a strategy that may adversely affect the property sector. Mr Tung has either avoided this basic question or the media have not queried him. But based on a newspaper survey conducted on Monday, the public are not satisfied and Mr Tung has already suffered personally from making Mr Leung's appointment. The survey found that on a 10-point scale, respondents' ratings for Mr Tung's ability and their trust in him have dipped to a new low of 4.88 points and 4.85 points respectively. It marks the first time he had had both scores below the pass mark since he was elected. The survey reflects the sentiment of part of the community. Mr Tung may feel that he can afford to ignore such survey results, but he will also find himself increasingly alienated from the community that he is going to govern.