Reviving the government-subsidised Home Ownership Scheme now would not be an instant fix for high property prices since it would take seven years to get the first flats on sale, the housing director says. But Duncan Pescod's contention was questioned by surveyors and lawmakers. They said the market had already been cooled by news that the government was considering a return to building subsidised housing, along with measures to dampen foreign investment in the private market. 'I fear people assume that the decision to do so would immediately have some sort of impact on the property market. Well, I personally am sceptical,' Pescod said at a meeting with the Housing Authority. 'I must point out that even an optimistic timetable would only see new units coming on stream after about seven years under normal circumstances.' Even if suitable land was found, a year would be required for basic planning, another year or so for the infrastructure and three to five years for construction, he said. The scheme was halted in 2002 as part of efforts to rejuvenate the then-battered property market. Raymond Chan Yuk-ming, a spokesman for the Institute of Surveyors' planning and development division, said the time for construction could be shortened to less than four years. Private developers could complete a building within one to two years once the foundation work was done, he said. 'Private developers want to finish the construction to sell the flats as soon as possible as they need to pay interest on the land and construction cost,' he said. 'But the government takes longer as it does not want to pay a higher construction cost.' Institute president Wong Bay agreed that government housing usually took longer to build as fewer workers and machinery were used to cut costs. But he said it was wrong to think that the property market would not be affected until the government-subsidised flats went on sale. 'In fact, the market has already calmed down a bit since the government said it was considering resuming the scheme, let alone formally announcing it,' Wong said. Midland Realty said turnover in the second-hand property market in the 35 major estates across the city fell to 73 last week, from 96 the week before. Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah- kit said property prices would cool further if the government announced it was resuming the scheme. 'The atmosphere in the market will completely change. Homebuyers will not rush into buying flats so that the prices will not be pushed up further.' Democratic Party legislator Wong Sing-chi said the government could sell HOS flats before they were finished. 'Supply can be increased within a shorter time and prices in the market will definitely come down.'