No change on property market cooling measures, says minister

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 8:56am

The housing minister yesterday again refused to amend property market cooling measures or talk about a date for their withdrawal, amid calls for adjustments to the controversial taxes.

Commenting on the overwhelming response seen on Saturday when luxury flats at The Cullinan in West Kowloon went on sale, Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the behaviour of buyers in the past two days had shown that the market was still very sensitive.

Lawmakers and property agencies have called for a sunset clause and exemptions to the cooling measures, which were aimed at curbing property speculation, but Cheung said the market was still unstable and that the government had to stand firm on any measures aimed at managing demand.

"Our attitude to any adjustments is that we have to make sure we do not create any loopholes. We know that the market's response is quick and there are people who would make use of any loopholes, which would mean the effects of the measures would be reduced," he said.

Cheung said there were no grounds for the introduction of a sunset clause for the Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill 2012.

"It is impossible to foresee that the demand-side management measures would be unnecessary on a certain day in the future. In fact, there are still a lot of uncertainties in the market and the risk of asset bubbles cannot be understated," he said.

"The demand-side management measures are abnormal measures for abnormal times. When the market is stable again then we will consider making adjustments."

Centaline Property Agency founder Shih Wing-ching said the government's interpretation of the market was wrong, and that the measures only reduced transactions rather than prices. The fall in property prices seen in recent months was caused by the global financial situation and not the government's cooling measures, Shih said.

Cheung said the government's stance was to not take any action that could signal that the risks to Hong Kong's property market were gone, which he said would be the wrong message. He said the government's aim was to stabilise the market.