Give chief executive absolute power to solve housing crisis

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 June, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 June, 2015, 12:01am

At a Legco meeting last month Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the root cause of many social and welfare problems in Hong Kong was a shortage of approved developable land.

This has resulted in extremely high property prices and rents.

The latest victims were our elderly at a care home who were made to stand naked while waiting to shower. Care homes have to squeeze in as many occupants as possible to pay their high rents and perhaps have to compromise in other areas like workers and bathrooms.

Similarly, families live in subdivided units and the average Hong Kong household has to slog for 17 years for a 500 sq ft flat. This overcrowding problem is extended to sectors such as health care where doctors try squeezing in many patients and at childcare centres where classrooms are overcrowded.

Hong Kong has no shortage of land. In-fact over 40 per cent of land in Hong Kong comprises country parks, however less than 20 per cent of developable land is used for housing.

Legislators, politicians, indigenous villagers and district councillors oppose the current administration re-zoning, increasing density, building new townships and objected to a small portion (5 per cent) usage of country parks for housing, but they offer no constructive or viable solutions.

The free market ideology is used to argue against government intervention in the housing sector. Nobel laureate economists like Joseph Stiglitz have refuted this.

Low interest rates due to the dollar peg is another common excuse given by those with a substantial vested interest in property. In fact low interest rates have pushed up property prices globally, but governments intervene; for example, Singapore.

The main problem here is a lack of supply and an overly large demand from local and foreign buyers who buy for investment and not for end user accommodation.

As 50 per cent of the population lives in public housing, the government must either ramp up supply, to the extent it crowds out the private sector, or implement more severe demand control measures - to drive prices down.

Maintaining the status-quo means the poor, elderly and vulnerable will stand naked against powerful interest groups - landlords and the property developers - who want to keep land/property prices high.

Although I am a supporter of democracy, Beijing should intervene by giving C. Y. Leung absolute power to solve our housing crisis - this is the only quick and possible solution.

Bernard E. S. Lee, Tsuen Wan