18-member housing advisory team set up

Updated: 2012-09-14 06:34

By Kahon Chan(HK Edition)

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A housing advisory team comprising almost entirely of scholars, housing authorities, professional people and representatives of political parties, will offer guidance to Chief Executive CY Leung (CE), as the CE grapples with finding a solution to the city's housing problem.

Only one representative from a property developer, Augustine Wong Hon-ming, a general manager of the Henderson Land Development, was chosen to sit on the the 18 member advisory committee, which was announced on Thursday.

Wan Man-yee, an estate surveyor who had sat on the city's precedent setting housing strategy committee, said Leung has taken the view of home buying as a quality-of-life matter rather than an investment concern.

"I agree, in particular with one of Leung's remarks: 'Hong Kong is not short of land, but we are short of determination'," Wan said. "I think he holds the necessary values to pursue social justice and equality."

Hong Kong has not had a long-term strategic housing plan since April 1998. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed creating a new plan in his election manifesto, advocating that the housing supply plan be rewritten every five years, to assure a sustainable supply of land and subsidized homes.

The CE set up an internal working group earlier this month to evaluate the current housing demand and put together a draft housing strategy, ready for public consultation by the second half of 2013.

The work of the new advisory committee will complement the work of the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, to be chaired by the Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung. The steering committee will provide advice and consultation to the CE and to the advisory committee.

Some of those named to the housing committee had acted as advisors to Leung during the CE's election bid. Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, the head of Urban Renewal Authority, looked after Leung's campaign office. Marco Wu Moon-hoi, vice-chairman of the Housing Society, contributed to Leung's manifesto on housing policy.

Wan Man-yee said the housing problem has grown worse and become more political since the last housing plan was set out. The painful memory of "underwater homeowners" holding negative equity in the late 1990s, added to the need for caution as Leung lays out comprehensive housing plans, Wan said.

Wan agrees Hong Kong people should pay less for housing mortgages, adding that "a lot of homebuyers who pay high prices (for houses) are from the mainland," but he said it would be impractical to set policies aimed at forcing housing prices lower.

"Capital flows fast and freely in Hong Kong. It is superfluous to lay plans to control prices. The only way to go is to position (housing need) as a quality-of-life issue," he said, adding that it would be more meaningful to explore questions such as the optimal ratio of public to private housing.

Fellow advisor Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, who also chairs the Housing Authority's subsidized housing committee, shared Wan's view. "A lot of factors affect the performance of the home market. Demand and supply is only one part of the issue," he said, continuing that the government's capacity to implement remedies was limited to the supply side.

Fred Li Wah-ming, head of the Legislative Council Housing Committee, said he hoped the government would pinpoint all government-controlled lands on the territory map, lay out a timeline and quantify the need for housing supply and most importantly, put the plan into concrete action.

The committee was expected to hold its first meeting early next month.

Meanwhile, NOW TV cited sources as saying that the government was preparing to unveil a new package of measures to keep home prices steady, possibly including an extension of the period during which the special stamp duty would apply, as a means of curbing speculation. Property prices have continued soaring to record highs, since Leung took office in July.


(HK Edition 09/14/2012 page1)