The government should provide public housing for Hong Kong's needy. It has no business being a private-property developer, though, despite some calls to the contrary. A decision in 2002 to suspend indefinitely the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) should have been the beginning of the end of the matter. When the last of the tens of thousands of flats that the government built under the scheme have been sold as planned, the policy must be consigned to history. Suggestions that the programme resume have been prompted by the growing waiting list for public housing. Flats are perceived as being in short supply because tens of thousands of Housing Authority tenants whose income now exceeds the level needed to qualify for subsidised homes cannot be convinced to move out. Charging such households higher rents has not been effective. By November, they numbered 22,800 out of a total of more than 700,000 households. The issue is a sensitive one. Families should not be evicted, but nor should they continue to enjoy subsidised accommodation when they can clearly afford to rent or even buy in the private housing market. Among the solutions are incentives, such as loans to buy flats, short-term rent subsidies or a waiver of rates for a set period. To ensure fairness, the government must arrive at a decision only after extensive public consultation. The HOS was set up in the 1970s to provide attractively priced accommodation for those unwilling to live in, or no longer entitled to live in, public housing. Worthy as the idea seemed, though, it was flawed. The discounts and multiple subsidies provided under the scheme distorted Hong Kong's property market. Enticing public housing tenants to vacate their rental flats by selling them new ones at below-market prices amount to giving them double benefits. Calls for the HOS to be restored have to be resisted. Only through public discussion and consensus will the best way forward be found.