Gloom and doom was the general feeling as Hong Kong ushered in the new year after months of turmoil. But there has been some positive news on the housing front, such as the voluntary offer of land by another property developer to make homes for the needy more affordable. It may just be a drop in the ocean, but the move renews the momentum in trying to solve the city’s housing crunch. The plan by Wheelock Properties to loan three plots of land , at a cost of HK$1 each, is to be welcomed. Some 2,000 “transitional” homes may be built for more than 6,000 families pending the allocation of public flats. Together with offers from Henderson Land Development and New World Development, nearly 4 million sq ft of land is now available for poor families with temporary housing needs. Coming after the attack by mainland media on local developers for contributing to the ongoing woes, the steps may be greeted with scepticism in some quarters. That makes well-defined mechanisms to guard against collusion and conflicts of interest all the more important. Land supply is primarily the duty of the government. The latest land sale programme comprises three residential sites, two in Mong Kok and one in Kwun Tong, yielding 1,850 units in total. This includes 1,000 starter homes for sale at below market prices. Officials said the supply over the past nine months had already reached 90 per cent of the annual housing target. Another 93,000 private units will be available in three to four years. Assuring as it sounds, affordability is still the issue. It will not help if prices remain beyond the reach of average buyers. According to property agencies and analysts, prices of residential, retail and office units are expected to fall this year. But with them having rocketed more than 500 per cent since 2003, there is much room for further correction. Figures from the Rating and Valuation Department showed that prices for lived-in homes rose by 1.78 per cent in November after five months of decline. But transactions are said to have turned sluggish again in December. The market trend is far from clear. The authorities must work harder to make affordable housing an attainable goal.