Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong finance chief ‘to boost land supply’ in next budget

Paul Chan uses official blog to note ‘complicated interests’ that obstruct action to ease city’s housing crisis

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 10:37pm

Hong Kong’s finance chief has indicated that boosting land supply to ease the city’s housing problems will be a key part of his upcoming budget, through which he said he would strive to elevate “the people’s sense of being well-off”.

Paul Chan Mo-po said that while the issue of increasing land supply involved a lot of “controversies and misunderstandings” as well as “complicated interests”, the government was determined to tackle them head-on.

He urged people to give the government “full support” in order that land supply policies get the go-ahead smoothly.

Chan is compiling the budget, to be delivered on February 28.

Writing on his official blog on Sunday, he said that in it he would allocate resources to ease people’s hardship and invest in the future to boost the economy, elevate people’s sense of being well-off and expand their room for development.

Housing is one of the biggest long-term political and economic problems in Hong Kong, which has topped Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey’s list of the world’s most expensive cities for the past seven years.

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Mass and luxury residential home prices in Hong Kong went up 14.4 per cent and 15.3 per cent respectively in 2017, according to a report released last week by global property consultancy JLL, which predicted home prices could grow by another 10 per cent in 2018.

And those high prices have knock-on effects, such as long waiting lists for public housing and residents squeezing into small, often substandard, homes. There are more than 280,000 people waiting for public housing, with an average wait of 4.6 years.

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In recent months Chan has been consulting various social groups and political parties on the budget.

On Sunday he wrote that he had appreciated the opportunity to meet a group of 39 student “junior financial secretaries” recently, to exchange views with the young people. The meeting, attended by students from 18 secondary schools, was part of the Junior Financial Secretary project organised by youth group The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong.

Chan wrote: “The top concern of the junior financial secretaries was the impact of high property prices on people’s livelihoods and the economy, which would in turn take away the opportunities of upward social mobility of young people.”

He said he had explained to the students the difficulties the government was facing and added: “There are a lot of controversies and misunderstandings surrounding the issue of increasing land supply. It also involves complicated vested interests. But the government is determined to tackle the issue head-on and smash the difficulties.”

But he added that the “full support” of society was most important.

The government set up a task force on land supply in September 2017 to look at different ways of boosting supply. But the group’s discussion so far has created further controversies, including the idea of building flats atop container terminals and large-scale reclamation outside Victoria Harbour.