Flat buyers get smaller discount

DISCOUNTS offered on 5,500 Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats that go up for sale today have been cut by five per cent because the Housing Authority claims property prices have stabilised.

The authority will offer a 40 per cent discount on the flats in 16 blocks on the market today, compared with a discount of 45 per cent offered when the last HOS units went on sale in December.

December's discount was the largest offered in a decade and the sale was heavily over-subscribed.

Home-buyers with incomes up to $20,000 a month are now allowed to apply, following an authority decision to raise income limits by 11.1 per cent.

Average prices range from about $570,000 to $1.3 million for flats of 48.1 square metres to 82.6 square metres. The sale is expected to generate an income of more than $4.5 billion for the authority.

The Assistant Director of Housing (Applications and Home Ownership), Mr Marco Wu Moon-hoi, said the prices of the flats would be more or less the same as those in the last sale despite a lowered discount.

Mr Wu estimated that using the discount, 90 per cent of the families with incomes below $20,000 a month would use less than 40 per cent of their incomes on monthly mortgage repayments.

Research manager of property consultants L & D Holdings, Mr Benjamin Lam Siu-ming, agreed the lowered discount was reasonable, with the average 10 per cent drop in property prices in the first quarter of the year.

But Mr Lam doubted if linking HOS flat prices with those in the private market would be fair to the lower-income buyers.

Hongkong People's Council on Public Housing Policy spokeswoman Miss Leung Yuk-fung agreed and added: ''The authority only wants to maintain a high-price policy by reducing the discount. It never aims to sell cheap flats to buyers.'' The six HOS projects on offer comprise 16 blocks in Tsz Wan Shan, Stanley, Yau Tong, Junk Bay, Fanling, and Tuen Mun. Applications close on April 29.

Bail was extended yesterday for 23 people arrested during a rent policy protest outside Government House last month. They were expected to report back to the Central police station on April 29.

Police said they were seeking advice from the Legal Department on whether to lay charges.

In a statement issued last night, the Hongkong Social Workers' General Union said the protesters were exercising their rights and should not be prosecuted.