Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam ‘open’ to extending resale restriction on subsidised housing from five to 10 years

Extension could be amended through Legislative Council as early as first half of next year if government takes action

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 8:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 11:15pm

Hong Kong’s leader said on Friday she would keep an open mind on extending the resale restriction period on subsidised flats from five to 10 years, ensuring the homes will be “for people to live in” and not for speculation or profiteering.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor spoke two days after it was revealed that Hong Kong’s subsidised housing market was setting fresh records, with a government-built flat selling for more than HK$10 million (US$1.27 million) this month, despite new measures aimed at taming runaway property prices.

“Homes are for people to live in. [The government] should be able to satisfy people’s demand for home ownership,” she said as she concluded a three-day visit to Beijing.

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Lam launched a slew of new policies less than a month ago aimed at easing the city’s housing crisis by providing more affordable homes. This included putting 4,431 Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats on the market next February at about half the market price, as opposed to the previous 30 per cent discount.

When asked if she would consider extending the resale restriction period on subsidised flats from five to 10 years, the city leader said: “During my earlier meetings with [Hong Kong] political parties, I’ve said that personally, I would keep an open attitude on tightening the resale restrictions.”

She believed the Housing Authority would discuss the proposal “seriously”.

The authority’s subsidised housing committee was likely to discuss the issue again during its next meeting scheduled for September 28.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who is also a member of the committee, said extending the period from five to 10 years “is not complicated”.

“Various political parties already agree that five years is too short, so it is not really that controversial,” Wan said.

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Pro-establishment lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung, another committee member, agreed it was the consensus of the majority to extend it beyond five years, but the exact number of years should be “carefully considered”.

“Extending it to 10 years is quite a big change,” Kwok said. “We should observe its effectiveness before considering whether it needs to be lengthened to 15 or even 20 years as some people have suggested.”

He added that the extension would involve amending a by-law under the Housing Ordinance, and if the government wanted to expedite the process, the amendments could take effect as soon as the legislation is gazetted, before the scrutiny of lawmakers. Wan estimated that the Housing Ordinance could be amended through the Legislative Council as early as the first half of next year if the government took action.

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Earlier, Lam met Beijing officials, such as Chinese Academy of Sciences president Bai Chunli and science and technology minister Wang Zhigang, as well as a group of young Hongkongers interning at a programme at the Forbidden City.

The chief executive also watched a Chinese opera performance showcasing troupes from around the country, including a group of young Hong Kong actors and actresses aged three to 22. Lam was scheduled to return to Hong Kong on Saturday.

Additional reporting by Catherine Wong in Beijing