Hong Kong housing bubble and water issues arise from same source: government inaction
Both the problems raised in your April 24 editorials (“City cannot afford to carry on living with even smaller homes” and “Tap must be turned on Hong Kong’s waste of water”) can be put down to government inaction. It used to be called positive non-intervention or, less gracefully, the less you do the less the chance of being blamed.
It was foreseen as far back as Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s time as chief executive that the price of a flat was going to get out of reach of an average wage earner, but he dismissed the grim prospect. Now, it has gone so much out of hand that the price of a car park-sized flat costs close to HK$10 million and the rental for a pest-infested subdivided unit is becoming unaffordable.
The obvious solution was to cap the selling price at cost price plus a certain percentage, along the lines of how public transport fares and electricity bills are regulated. But the fear of being blamed for a possible property market crash, as Tung Chee-wah was, soon relegated action to the extra stamp duty for non-first-time buyers. A limit should have been set for the downsizing, at least for public health reasons.
The outgoing water supplies director warned before 1997 that the mains were 20 years overdue for replacement. They were nevertheless left to burst before replacement – the run-it-to-the-ground approach– and the leakage through the government-run portion of the supply network is now three times that of Singapore.
Peter Lok, Heng Fa Chuen