Hong Kong housing

How Lee Kuan Yew effect could help Hong Kong solve its housing crisis

  • The free market doesn’t really exist, and the government has a necessary role in regulating demand
PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2018, 6:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2018, 6:10am

Stop allowing the market and public to dictate our housing policy. To begin with, there aren’t any real “free markets” in this world and this ideological term is simply used by certain business groups when a government hands-off approach benefits them. Governments exist in this age to help, steer, influence and intervene in many forms.

In Hong Kong’s case, it’s the lack of intervention and the lack of a strong government system on housing – which is left to the market itself – that has resulted in our current housing crisis.

On the extreme opposite end are claims that Hong Kong doesn’t have enough fair competition and the government has collaborated too much with property tycoons and vested interest groups, artificially pushing prices up by limiting supply. Hence the phrase “crony capitalism”.

We often hear our government boasting about economic growth figures and low unemployment rates and Hong Kong winning accolades from the Heritage Foundation, being the “freest economy”, but for whom and for what? The masses do not see their lives improving.

The inability to solve our long-standing housing crisis is a testament to the faults in our current system, allowing objections to get in the government’s way.

A strong “benevolent dictator” like Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, perhaps, would use 3 per cent of our country parks solely for public housing, for locals only, without allowing objection.

Singapore’s strong leadership leaves Hong Kong dragging behind

We already have existing land (country parks), while continuing on reclamation for the East Lantau Metropolis project, which I agree with. Stronger demand control measures should be imposed concurrently to curb foreign and local (for those owning multiple properties) investment demand.

We all know the influential landlord/ tycoon class does not want a substantial increase in housing supply; that would push prices down. However, the masses also object to other well-intended government initiatives.

Unfortunately, many in society aren’t informed or considerate enough, while every party/vested interest has its own objection to solutions that the government comes up with; that’s why we never can solve our housing problem. This is eroding our city’s competitiveness and quality of life.

The case for a minimum living space

Our society often blames the government, the lack of democracy and China for all our ills, but have you ever thought: did we bring this upon ourselves?

The government should stop consulting and stop worrying about consensus and public opinion, and do what’s right for the future. At the end of her term, at least this chief executive could proudly say she solved our perennial problem.

Bernard E.S. Lee, Tsuen Wan