Spending on housing sees a drop of 1.8 per cent in real terms to $12.24 billion in the new financial year. It is also the sixth successive year that the proportion of recurrent public spending on housing has dropped - from 6.6 per cent in 1997-98 to 5.6 per cent for the new year, although it will account for 10 per cent of total spending. In this financial year, spending on housing accounts for 5.9 per cent of total expenditure. Part of the drop is also because of a forecast fall in capital expenditure of the Housing Authority, according to the draft estimates. As a government agent, the authority helps clear squatters on government land. But the population of squatters has dropped from 226,500 two years ago to 215,700 now as more squatter areas are cleared. A major clearance task, the Deep Bay Link clearance project, will be carried out this year and squatter control duties transferred to the Lands Department in phases, starting next month. Provision for the Housing Bureau is also $1.9 million, or 4.2 per cent, lower than this year's revised estimate. This is mainly due to the enhanced productivity programme and reduced need for allowances.