Updated at 4.15pm: Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Kam-kuen on Monday announced an immediate suspension of the sale of subsidised flats for the next 10 months in an attempt to bolster Hong Kong's ailing property market. Mr Tsang said the sale of all Home Ownership Scheme flats would be halted until June next year and the suspension might continue beyond that time. In the meantime, the Government would review the scheme to decide who should be eligible and how the scheme should operate, he said. A loan scheme for less well off families who wanted to buy private homes would be stepped up to compensate for the move, Mr Tsang said. The decision was taken because the Government believed the availability of Home Ownership Scheme flats was ''crowding out private housing in a slow market'', Mr Tsang said. The move came just two weeks after tycoon Li Ka-shing suggested the Government should slow down and possibly halt altogether Home Ownership Scheme sales because of their effect on the property market. But Mr Tsang insisted: ''We are not doing this to pander to any vested interest. We are doing this for the permanent good.'' Monday's announcement came as a surprise. Observers had anticipated a cut in the Home Ownership Scheme in Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's policy address speech next month but the Government appears to have decided to act more swiftly. Property prices in Hong Kong peaked in 1997 and have fallen by around 30 per cent since then.