Hong Kong housing

Subsidised housing estate plan sparks fears over traffic congestion and affordability

The Sha Tin project, expected to provide 5,000 flats, is one of the first public housing sites proposed to be converted for Green Form scheme

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 8:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 4:16pm

Sha Tin district council members on Thursday raised concerns about potential traffic congestion from a proposed subsidised housing project that is a cornerstone of the government’s plan to boost home ownership.

Councillors also said they were worried that public rental housing tenants and those on the waiting list for such housing – the targeted buyers for the subsidised housing project – would not be able to afford the flats.

Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, proposed to regularise the Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme in her maiden policy address last month. The so-called green form flats will be built on sites originally reserved for public rental housing.

The Sha Tin project, expected to provide some 5,000 flats when construction is completed, is one of the first public housing sites proposed to be converted for the green form housing. The flats were expected to be sold at the end of next year.

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At Thursday’s district council meeting, vice-chairman Thomas Pang Cheung-wai said the project might attract more working families than a rental housing estate, because families would need to work to pay for mortgages.

This might worsen the traffic problem in the area, Pang said.

Council member Scarlett Pong Oi-lan said the housing estate, which is located at the intersection of Wong Chuk Yeung Street and Kwei Tei Street, was close to an industrial zone in Fo Tan and the traffic conditions there were notorious.

She said she was hit by, and almost got dragged underneath, a truck on a road near the estate.

“The police told us the number of tickets issued for illegal parking had increased by 20 per cent,” Pong said. “After the housing estate is built, the traffic conditions will certainly deteriorate. The government can no longer ignore this problem.”

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Pong said the council supported the government’s decision to change the site from industrial to residential in 2012 because it promised to build a youth centre in the estate. However, when she asked the government about the centre in 2014, officials said the centre would no longer be for youths only but a comprehensive service centre.

“The government has basically broken its promise,” she said.

Government representatives said they would look into the concerns.

Councillor Li Sai-hung said he knew many existing public housing tenants and thought the families in wait would not be able to afford the green form flats.

A pilot green form project in San Po Kong was priced 40 per cent off the market rate, but many tenants had complained that the prices were still too high.

Li added that the government should build more new rental flats for people on the waiting list to choose, instead of only asking them to move into existing, vacated flats.

Late last month, Lam triggered a public outrage when she said 800,000 public rental flats, which the government would reach soon, would be enough to meet the demand, implying that the government would then stop building rental flats and convert all future rental housing sites into for green form subsidised housing.

Lam apologised and explained that the government would not stop building new rental housing.

At the district council meeting, a representative from the Housing Authority, the main provider of public housing, said the authority would decide whether to follow Lam’s proposal and regularise the green form scheme based on a review of the pilot project.

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If the authority decided to regularise the scheme, the representative said, the authority would then decide how many rental housing sites would be converted for the green form housing.

The review is expected to be completed by early next year.