Hong Kong’s first ‘starter homes’ project heavily subscribed in first two days, with 3,000 applicants jostling for 450 units
- The subsidised homes in Hung Hom are going at 38 per cent below market rates
- The Urban Renewal Authority, which is piloting the scheme, says it does not yet have any plans to follow it up
Hong Kong’s first “starter homes” project received around 3,000 applications just two days after the launch.
The response means that the 450 flats in Hung Hom, Kowloon are already oversubscribed sixfold since applications opened on Thursday.
The Urban Renewal Authority (URA), which was invited by the government in July to pilot test the “starter home” scheme, said that around 8,000 people had registered to take a tour of the show flats.
The URA’s managing director Wai Chi-sing said on Saturday the response was “quite good” but it would be difficult to estimate how popular the project would be until after applications close on 23 January.
Despite the positive response, Wai said the authority has yet to plan for more “starter homes”.
“If the government has any requests, we will also have to look at our financial capability. For now, our focus is on urban renewal of old districts. We’ll see to it again when and if the opportunity comes,” Wai said on a radio show.
The URA stands to suffer a shortfall of HK$10 billion (US$1.28 million) on what it would get if the flats were sold at market prices, Wai reiterated, and the expected revenue would only be “close to the project costs”.
The flats, which range in size from 261 to 507 sq feet, will go on the market from HK$3.14 to HK$6.6 million after a 38 per cent discount.
Some 82 per cent of the flats at the “eResidence” project are studio and one-bedroom flats. The rest are two-bedroom flats.
The authority will hold a lottery in March to determine the sequence for applicants to pick the flats in June, with priority given to family applicants.
The project is part of a new government initiative aimed at helping eligible middle-class families and single, young professionals to get onto the property ladder. Only first-time property buyers and those who meet certain asset and income criteria are eligible.
Wai also defended the size of the project’s smaller flats.
“Quality of living is not just determined by size, it’s also about how you use the space,” he said.
Wai said that collapsible furniture and communal facilities in the building can help maximise space and improve living standards.
“For example, you can fold up the bed and have a bigger living room. When you need to sleep you can take the bed down, and you don’t actually need to use the living room any more,” Wai said.
On the same radio show, Wai, also a member of the government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply, said that he was “in full support” of reclamation as a way of boosting land supply.
He said that during his tenure as permanent secretary for development between 2010 and 2015, he had suggested reclaiming 1,000 hectares in the central waters between Lantau and Hong Kong Islands.
The government is now proposing to build artificial islands spanning 1,700 hectares to the East of Lantau. Wai agreed that Hong Kong would need more than 1,000 hectares of reclaimed land.
This was because when he was in government, Beijing had yet to propose its Greater Bay Area plan and its Belt and Road Initiative to promote economic and trade cooperation.
In light of the changes, the government should now review land use in the Western part of the city and find more opportunities for reclamation, he said.
Separately, the chairman of the task force on Saturday responded to claims that taking back part of a historic Fanling golf course for housing would hurt the city’s status as an international financial centre.
The Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers said earlier this week that if part of the 172-hectare course was developed, as the task force had recommended, multinational companies would choose not to set up their headquarters because bankers and analysts like discussing business playing golf.
Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, a retired banker and an avid golfer himself, said it was “a little overexaggerated”.
He added that international competitions could still be held on the remaining 140 hectares of the course, while in the long term if the government wanted to redevelop the entire course, it would have to consider issues of relocation, heritage, environmental and transport constraints of the site.