Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam denies plan to stop building flats to rent

But she says focus could shift to cut-price homes for sale to the public if there is enough stock

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 October, 2017, 2:52pm

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Friday clarified that she did not plan to stop building public housing to rent to low-income families, after a news report sparked public outrage.

Lam’s explanation came after she was cited in a newspaper as saying that when the stock of public rental flats hit 800,000, the government would turn most rental flats built after then into subsidised flats that low-income ­families could buy.

As of March, there were 769,000 public rental flats under the Housing Authority, which is the main provider of public and subsidised flats in the city.

The remarks sparked fears that the government would stop building public rental housing, ­marking a U-turn from the previous government’s 10-year housing strategy which set a target of building 200,000 flats for rent.

Lam said on Friday that public rental housing was meant to be the “safety net” for families in the lowest income bracket.

Hong Kong’s public rent hopes slashed as 10-year housing target is lowered

“When [public housing stock] reaches a certain number, such as 800,000, it may be able to meet the demand of the poorest families over a period,” Lam said.

She said she did not mean to scrap public rental housing completely after reaching the mark, but would ask the government to study which land lots currently reserved for building rental housing would be suitable for developing subsidised flats for sale instead.

These flats would be sold to existing public rental housing tenants or those waiting for rental flats under the Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme.

As of June, 150,200 families and elderly people were waiting for public rental housing, with an average waiting time of 4.7 years.

Another 127,600 non-elderly people are in a separate, lower-priority queue. Some have been waiting for more than a decade.

The green form scheme was mentioned in Lam’s recent policy address as a measure to help renters move up the housing ladder. She said the government would listen to people’s opinions on how to price these green form flats to make them affordable.

But Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the Housing Authority’s subsidised housing committee, said the fact that Lam had chosen a mark for shifting the priority from building public rental housing to developing more subsidised housing “does not seem to be very appropriate today”.

Wong said the policy of rental flats had always been led by the demand from needy families, and he believed there had not been any evidence that demand would be met by a specific supply.

Community group Federation of Public Housing Estates said said it was disappointed at Lam’s remarks and “the suggestion obviously deviates from ... the 10-year housing target”.