Property prices are spiralling out of reach of people on modest incomes and the government should resume shelved schemes to help them buy homes, respondents to a poll say. Almost 75 per cent of those interviewed in the Chinese University survey said ordinary people could not afford a flat at current prices. About two-thirds supported a resumption of the Home Ownership Scheme to build subsidised flats for sale and the Home Starter Loan Scheme to help first-time buyers. The results of the survey of 1,011 people early last month were released as major developers said medium-sized flats were still reasonably priced and below the peaks reached in 1997 - echoing views expressed recently by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and other leading officials. 'The study shows that the public have conflicting views with the government on housing policies, as most people hope the Home Ownership Scheme and Home Starter Loan Scheme will be resumed,' said Professor Wong Chack-kie, associate professor in the university's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, which conducted the poll. More than 41 per cent of those questioned said the main reason for the rise in flat prices was market manipulation by developers, who they said were playing up news of big-ticket sales to inflate prices. A quarter said the increase was due to the influx of hot money, while nearly 15 per cent blamed it on the government's 'high land price' policy. Only about 13 per cent expressed confidence in the government in maintaining stable flat prices, compared with nearly 45 per cent who said they had no confidence. Wong said: 'There is a lack of long-term housing and land strategies. The government should review existing policies to fulfil the wishes of citizens to become property owners.' He said the government should listen to public opinion and restart the abandoned policies. Wong was surprised that more than 90 per cent said the government should strengthen regulations on property developers. 'Developers have to reflect on why they have such a bad public image,' Wong said, adding that issues such as misleading floor numbering and deceptive graphics in advertisements and sales brochures might have damaged their images. Meanwhile, the vice-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, said prices for medium-sized flats were reasonable because they were still 30 per cent lower than the peaks in 1997. Lee Shau-kee, chairman of Henderson Land Development, said the existing mortgage-to-income ratio was still at an affordable level and he forecast prices would increase a tenth next year. Since October, when a luxury flat sold for a world record HK$438.94 million, the chief executive and other officials have said repeatedly that mass-market flats were still affordable to the general public. The government said the price of a 500 sq ft flat was equal to 7.6 times median annual household income, similar to the average for the past 20 years. It would fine-tune its land supply arrangements if the need arose.