Take note, prospective owners of units in private housing estates. Some of your neighbours may have bought their homes for much less than you will pay because they earned less. This set of circumstances is likely to become common in future because a government proposal to invite private developers to build subsidised home ownership flats as part of a mixed development looks likely to become policy. The proposal was contained in the Long-Term Housing Strategy Review released six months ago, for which the consultation period recently ended. Under the proposal, private developers who acquire residential sites by tender would be required to make available a specified number of flats within a development for sale to low-income earners at designated prices. The Housing Society was nominated to carry out a pilot scheme by forming joint ventures with developers. It was hoped the involvement of more developers in building flats to their own design would allow a great range of choice to buyers of subsidised homes, who would also enjoy higher standards of design, finish, facilities and management. Last week the Housing Authority revealed that it also supported the idea of mixed development. In fact it went on to suggest that it was 'just as appropriate and capable a body [as the Housing Society] to take on this initiative' because of its rich experience in co-operating with the private sector in the building of Home Ownership Scheme estates. The Housing Authority said it was keen to adopt the mixed development concept so that the private sector could be employed on renovating older rental sites and rehousing existing tenants. Some units in the new developments would then be sold as Home Ownership Scheme flats at subsidised prices to less affluent households. So far, the Housing Authority has built more than 120 Home Ownership Scheme estates. But they sometimes suffer from image problems because the quality of their finishing and standards of design are considered inferior to those of private estates. 'By facilitating a random distribution of subsidised home ownership, such a scheme could help to remove the possible social labelling which public housing projects carry, and therefore help to foster social harmony,' said the authority in its submission to the Government. The mixed development concept has inspired some even more revolutionary ideas. Authority officials are said to be weighing the pros and cons of playing a role as an urban renewal agent by helping developers acquire private properties for redevelopment. At present, many old private buildings in rundown areas are plagued by problems arriving from multiple ownership. Although developers have acquired most units in some buildings, redevelopment is impossible because owners of the remaining units are reluctant to sell, and some of them hold out for exorbitant prices. Faced with a projected failure to meet its housing targets because of a land shortage, the authority believes it should help developers solve the acquisition problem. In exchange, developers would designate an agreed number of units in the redeveloped estate for sale to the authority under the Home Ownership Scheme. Under the Crown Lands Resumption Ordinance, the Governor-in-Council may order the resumption of any land required for a public purpose, a condition that would be partly satisfied by reserving some units in the new development and designating them subsidised housing. So far, the Housing Authority has not been directly involved in acquiring land from private owners on which to build public housing. But it has certainly built on land previously in private hands: it is just that the Government has done the resuming of land. Helping developers acquire properties from unwilling sellers in exchange for some saleable housing units is a departure from the authority's existing practice of building whole estates. While no decision has been taken and many issues need to be carefully worked out, Housing Authority officials are drawn to the idea because it would help generate more housing, both private and public, and speed up urban renewal. But, although the idea is likely to be welcomed by developers, whether it would be endorsed by owners of properties singled out for resumption is not nearly so certain. Developers have long desired the help of the Land Development Corporation to acquire the stakes of minority owners compulsorily. The idea even found its way into a consultation paper on urban renewal published by the Government last year. But the corporation is hesitant about embracing it because of fears that it could be seen as conspiring with developers to strip small owners of their properties. The Housing Authority would need to work out a scheme to the satisfaction of small owners, lest the latter dig in and resist resumption. One advantage flowing from the involvement of the Housing Authority in urban renewal is that it is the territory's biggest landlord. Presumably, it could allow displaced owners priority rights to buy Home Ownership Scheme flats. It could also accommodate displaced tenants in its 150-plus subsidised rental estates, although it could mean a longer wait for people already on the waiting list for such housing.