CY Leung policy address 2014

Return to rental caps proposed as Legco debates Leung Chun-ying's policy address

Lawmakers criticise government for failure to improve housing crisis, as Labour Party's Cyd Ho floats reintroduction of annual rental caps scrapped in 1998

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 12:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 12:44pm

Lawmakers heaped criticism on the government’s inability to improve the city’s housing crisis, as the Legislative Council entered the second day of a three-day debate on the motion to thank Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for his policy address.

The annual ritual allows legislators to voice their approval or disapproval of the leader’s blueprint.

Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan proposed introducing regulation along the same lines as that introduced in the 1970s – when Hongkongers faced a similar housing shortage and rising rents – which capped rents on an annual basis.

“Housing expenses have been growing but wages have not grown accordingly,” Ho said on Thursday morning. “Pressure is mounting on people who are ineligible to apply for subsidised housing. The government should revive rental regulations to a certain extent.”

The regulation, introduced in 1973, was scrapped in 1998 in the wake of the Asian financial crisis.

Commercial lawmaker and Executive Councillor Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung backed a proposal to boost housing supply by squeezing more total floor area into existing land available for construction.

“Hong Kong is a small city and we face difficulty in finding land for housing,” said Lam, of the Business and Professional Alliance for Hong Kong.

He said Hongkongers also have to “make a choice” between development and conservation of green areas.

“We need development yet some staunchly oppose the opening up of green areas,” said Lam. “When people insist green areas cannot be developed for housing for humans, can we build columbarium instead?”

The legislature continued to debate issues surrounding housing, transport and environment policies. The next session of debate will focus on welfare and health.