CY’s big plan to house HK – better than nothing

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While CY has made plans to build 480,000 public and private residential units, observers aren’t sure his plans are good enough. Photo Credit: Chris Lusher

As Dominic Lee, Chairman of the Liberal Party Youth Committee, puts it, “As the first policy address after the Occupy Movement, it was always expected that issues especially concerning the Youth would be a prominent feature.” Housing, is definitely one of them.

Of the 65 pages of the English version, housing and land supply took up at least ten pages, more than any other topic. The Chief Executive took his time to painstakingly describe how the Government plans to ensure the 480,000 public and private residential units it promised in the “Long Term Housing Strategy”released last month, will be made available in the next decade.

Wrong target

One of the policies that caught Dominic’s eye, was the suggestion to identify some of the Public Rental Housing developments and sell them at a discount price to Green Form applicants, lower-income people living in public housing.

This also caught the eye of Bill Stacey, who is the Chairman Hong Kong’s leading free market think tank, Lion Rock Institute. He welcomed the decision, saying, “to sell public rental housing units to existing tenants of public housing could be a small step towards privatizing more of the public housing stock.”

But of course, its better than nothing

However, the decision to focus sales to green form applicants, and not white form applicants, prospective buyers of subsidised units currently living in private flats and who do not receive a housing subsidy, is puzzling.

“If you paid attention to the recent HOS pre-sale, applicants were 90% white forms and 10% green forms, but for this new plan they’re still targeting green form applicants,” shares Dominic. “We question whether this reflects an imbalance in supply. But of course, its better than nothing.”

Skilled labour

One thing that Dominic believes the Government did get right, is to import more labour.

“We always doubted whether the Government, beyond lacking land, had enough labour to accommodate the building of 480,000 units in the next decade. The cost of building a HOS unit is currently around one million dollars. As materials and fees are climbing, if labour is lacking, the goal will be impossible to reach. So we were glad to see the Address propose importing more skilled workers.” he says.

Better than nothing

With regards to housing and land supply, both Bill and Dominic gave their verdict on the policy address.

Bill believes that the CE gave a plausible account of why over-reaction to the financial crisis, poor management and green good intentions created a crisis in the supply of land, and his focus on the supply side of property issues is comprehensive and commendable. However, one particular policy item was not up to scratch.

he thought the address brought no surprises.

“We are disappointed with the mandating of space to be reserved for the specific use of being cinemas. We believe any policy geared towards any particular industry to be one that would not only not save an increasingly obsolete industry, but also retard the growth of new ones,” he says.

Dominic’s reaction to CY’s third policy address was also rather lukewarm. While he did give it a passing grade, he thought the address brought no surprises.

He says, “it does respond to certain aspirations in society, but whether the strength used and the precision of the policies are appropriate is still up in the air.”