Aged people will benefit from new facilities, not developers, says Legco member Tony Tse
Functional constituency representative has urged government to give incentives to developers
Tony Tse Wai-chuen, who represents the Architectural, Surveying and Planning functional constituency in the Legislative Council, has 38 years of experience in the real estate business. Tse has worked in both the public and private sectors, holding senior position in companies and organisations including Hongkong Land Property, the Urban Renewal Authority, Henderson Land Development and Henderson Sunlight Asset Management.
What made you focus on the housing issue for the elderly in Hong Kong?
It’s because I am getting old. It’s for my own interest. (laughing) It was just kidding.
Earlier, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had addressed the issue of the aged population in the city. Housing is an important issue so I have invited some consultants to look into the issue.
In your proposal, you suggested the government give incentives to developers to lure them to invest in building homes for the aged. Do you worry that your idea will be criticised as a proposal that favours developers ?
I suggest that the government should consider giving incentives to developers in a way to draw them to provide homes for the aged. For example, the government requires that developers must provide facilities catering for aged people in their clubhouses. In return, the government offers them an option that can lower the cost to maintain the clubhouse. Some say developers will benefit [from this idea]. But those are the incentives to lure them to participate in the market. Eventually, users will benefit. Attracting private capital can ease the government’s burden to build homes for the elderly.
If there are opportunities in the market, developers will go for it. Why does the government provide them with incentives?
Over the past decades, we did not see any developers investing in these kind of investments. It has been proven that developers will not invest in homes for the elderly because of higher development costs. They will not do it if they do not have incentives.
Do you think all development sites are suitable for homes designated for the elderly?
I propose that a project with a development site of 50,000 sq ft or above can be designed as a residential project that provides facilities designated for elderly. I am not saying the whole building should be designated for aged people. I proposed 30 per cent of the units in lower floors can be designed as aged-friendly flats [with features] such as a bigger entrance, wider corridor and flexible design.
What is the government’s response?
No bureau thinks it’s their job. It is not easy to make progress. We are waiting for the government to take the initiative.
Have you talked to developers?
Some developers such as Swire Properties once showed initial interest in it. But no one has made a move so far because they think such projects are not financially viable in terms of profit margins. They cannot maximise their profits. The government can take the initiative, such as adding particulars that requires developers to build a certain percentage of units on a site before it is offered for sale. Developers may join to bid for the project as everyone is on the same, level playing field.
Will developers consider building this type of investment to boost demand amid the property downturn, even if the government does not offer incentives?
It’s nothing to do with the market. It is because the investment is not financially viable.
What is your next move?
I have submitted the proposal to various departments and I also submitted it to [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying. Now I hope professional institutes in the property-related industries such as architecture do a detailed report on the designs of this kind of property development.
Apart from aged homes, I am also interested to study what kind of homes young people want to live in. Probably they just need small unit with a big social gathering area.
You have worked for a number of property firms in the past. What is the difference from being a Legislative Council member?
Property developers are profit oriented. What I needed to do was maximise profit from a project, monitor supply of land sites and real estate development and investment. We needed a fashionable strategy and marketing gimmicks.
As a Legislative Council member, I have to take care of many areas. The time I am spending in the current job is even longer than that I spent in property firms. I usually work over the weekend.The beauty of being a Legco member is that you can do nothing, it is still okay. But I do not allow myself to do it.
Sometimes I feel frustrated. Unlike in the old days, [when a] Legislative Council member received respect from the public. But it changes nowadays.
Are you enjoying your current job?
I have to admit that being a Legislative Council member gratifies my vanity. I want to do something for the industry. As a member, it is easier to push some ideas.
For myself, I have deeper knowledge about Hong Kong. I have a radio talk show. Prior to being a Legco member, I needed to do homework before hosting the show. But now I can talk about many areas about Hong Kong without having to do any preparation. I really know what is happening.
How do you assess your performance?
It is not assessed by me, but my voters. But I’ve heard some comments that I have contributed a lot for the sectors. Because of my previous experience, I can fairly represent the industries.