Property

Housing policies addressed in the new policy address

Property

Carrie Lam’s policy address touched upon the city’s low-income and middle-class communities. We see better welfare for the elderly, a public transport fare subsidy scheme for working professionals and profits tax changed to a two-tier system to benefit small- and medium-sized businesses. By initiating a wide spectrum of reinvestment projects, Lam’s new policies are a far cry from the government’s previously conservative financial approaches, and have been widely applauded by the public.

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The policy address also introduced new measures in regards to housing policies, with highlights being the Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership and Starter Homes schemes, designed to provide affordable flats for low-income home seekers. The government has and will continue to collect public opinions on the details of Starter Homes and will roll out the finalised scheme around mid-2018. The policy address didn’t make big promises with the Starter Homes scheme, which may mean that the new administration is taking a cautious approach by listening to the people of Hong Kong, and wants to come up with a well-conceived plan that benefits the target demographics.

The Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme, on the other hand, is already in action, with over 4,800 units in Fo Tan available for sale at the end of next year. As these units were initially planned for public housing, there have been voices questioning whether converting them into Green Form homes will make public housing waiting time even longer. However, it’s likely that the affordable prices will attract wealthier public housing unit owners to move into Green Form homes and subsequently make more public housing flats available. For instance, many buyers of King Tai Court in San Po Kong, a Green Form housing estate, are public housing owners from across Hong Kong. It is expected that as a result, a large number of public housing units will be vacated, renovated and let out to those on the waiting list. In addition, the newly available public housing flats will be all over Hong Kong, giving applicants more options in terms of location.

The implementation of the scheme might have something to do with Lam’s visiting trip in Singapore where she saw the local housing developments. In Singapore, public housing rentals are only available for a small group of poor families and new immigrants, while most of the nation’s residents live in self-owned affordable public housing units. As I see it, Green Form homes are Hong Kong's version of those affordable flats. Given our city’s current economic conditions and prospects, the public’s strong desire to buy homes and with up to 95% mortgage offered within the scheme, the Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme can potentially open the door for many Hongkongers trying to purchase their first home. It can be seen as a new and improved version of the Tenants Purchase Scheme, introduced back in 1998.

I believe that the Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme will be well received by the public. With more than sufficient fiscal reserves, the government is able to support more developments under the scheme, but it’s up to the public whether they are willing to sacrifice a small portion of the city’s country parks to achieve this goal. Otherwise, as long as the problem of land supply shortage remains unsolved, home ownership will still be an unattainable dream.

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