Big and taller. That seems to be the housing policy of former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. The chief executive hopeful yesterday proposed building larger public rental flats in the New Territories to attract low-income families from urban areas. This came after he sparked a furore last month when he suggested that the government should consider allowing indigenous villagers in the New Territories to build six to nine-storey village houses in place of current three-storey units. 'At present, the size of a public rental flat is the same in urban areas and in the New Territories, but there is less land in urban districts,' he said. 'Should the standard for NT estates be adjusted to 12 or 13 square metres? This could be a way to attract people to take their initial [public unit] offer.' The current standard is 11 square metres of living space per resident. Yesterday saw the first formal debate between two front runners for the city's top job over housing policy. While Tang threw snappy ideas such as larger public rental flats, rival Leung Chun-ying, the former Executive Council convenor, emphasised the need for a scientific study of housing needs. The forum for the two undeclared candidates was hosted by the Hong Kong College of Technology, of which Leung is a director. During the debate, Leung - who heads an international property firm's regional office - was in his element, swamping the audience with PowerPoint slides of official figures and news clippings. 'The housing problem is no longer visible on the hillside like in the [1960s], but in coffin homes and subdivided units. It is a hidden issue, which we need to understand well,' he said. The problem is not only high land prices and rents, according to Leung, but also under-sized flats, too many dilapidated buildings and low income levels among the grass roots. He suggested raising the building density of public rental estates to create more flats and giving more quotas to middle-aged singles. While some members of the audience praised Leung for knowing the subject well, Tang fought back. 'There is no need to analyse the issue too much since the society knows it well,' Tang said. 'What society lacks most is someone who is good at communicating with every sector and gets the consensus.' But Leung retorted: 'Consent cannot replace leadership and values. If everyone's consent is needed, our land will only stay idle in the sun.' Chan Yuen-han, a politician from the Federation of Trade Unions who joined the forum as a commentator, asked whether Leung, a practising surveyor, would side with developers when deciding on policies. Leung said he had actually 'offended' developers in past dealings and said he would look after residents' interests. Addressing Tang, Chan said the former chief secretary had failed to understand deep-seated social problems and should get more grass-roots advisers. Tang laughed it off, saying: 'You have no idea who is on my team.' Meanwhile, both Tang and Leung agreed that the suspended Home Ownership Scheme, which provides subsidised homes for sale, should be revived and that the private market should be kept stable.