Transcript of remarks by CE, STH and SDEV on housing and land supply policies

Following is the transcript of remarks by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, together with the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, and the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, at the question-and-answer session of a press conference this afternoon (August 30) to announce housing and land supply policies:

Reporter: RTHK. Two questions: Mr Leung, you say that you are very concerned about the price of housing increasing and you'll take appropriate steps at some point. How far out of reach does housing and the ability to buy a home have to be for people in Hong Kong before you will take those steps, and how would you know when it's time to take them? And the second question is on the My Home Purchase Plan (MHPP). Aren't the interests of the people who were hoping they could move into a place and rent it and maybe eventually buy it being sacrificed in order to get a short-term bump up in popularity?

Secretary for Transport and Housing: Maybe I'll respond on the question on MHPP. Indeed, when MHPP was first conceived by the previous Administration, there was a rental element, rent and then buy, but then afterwards there was increasing expectation and demand that some of those MHPP units should be sold, and that is why last year, again, in the previous Administration, it was decided that there should be an upright, an upfront buy option. That indicates indeed there is a growing demand within the community for more units to be sold and this sentiment is particularly strong over the last few months and we have heard various views, including Legislators', including various groups', so that's why the Government has decided, instead of having the rental element, all 1,000 units of the Tsing Luk Street Project should be sold. Now, we are not saying that we would not look after the target group of MHPP, that is those people who are earning up to $40,000 per month. Indeed the Government is examining, is studying an alternative scheme that would better help them - a scheme that we think would be more sustainable in the long term.

Chief Executive: On the question of affordability, it is clear that, just by looking at statistics comparing, for example, the rate of employment income increase and the rate of property prices increase or, for that matter, rental increase as well, affordability or the lack of it has become more serious. We don't have to look to the future; we are looking at the situation right now and we decided to take solid measures right now, and therefore this announcement of 10 short-term immediate measures and also medium and long-term measures as well.

Reporter: Chief Executive, you said, and you repeated to stress it, that if you were watching the prices and that if they reached a certain point you would take considered action, so I'm picking up from your statement. Where is the point at which you will take whatever those actions are?

Chief Executive: There might be something lost in the translation, Francis. The announcement of these measures is intended exactly to deal with the situation straight away. We don't have to wait. But if the situation changes further, we have other measures in the pipeline to deal with them then.

Reporter: From TVB Pearl. I was wondering, over the next few years, if you are able to provide any more concrete figures on people who will be able to be assisted or actual numbers of flats provided for these people, and could you also say something about the laws and regulations particularly surrounding the zoning that you may have difficulty with.

Secretary for Transport and Housing: Maybe I will respond on your first question.  As pointed out in the CE’s introductory remarks, over the next three to four years, we already expect a supply of 65,000 private sector units and then on the public housing side, over the next five years, we will have a total of 75,000 units.  Now if we are successful in speeding up the pre-sale consent process, then of course it will become much easier for more flats in the private sector to be rolled out and then, overall, because we are also talking about 36 GIC (Government, Institution or Community) sites that will be rezoned. Of course, whether we are able to do that quickly depends on the degree of support from the local districts.  Now, if we are successful, then we are talking about an additional 11,900 units. So in terms of numbers, we are not talking about very small numbers. They are significant compared to the original target of supply. But in the long term, of course, we have to have a steady land provision programme and that is why the Government has decided to launch a long-term housing strategy review and we hope that in the course of the review, we will map out more long-term measures and at the same time we are also hoping that through various initiatives, including the conversion of industrial buildings, then the overall supply will also be able to be increased to cope with public demand.

Chief Executive: There was a zoning question.

Secretary for Development: In terms of zoning, it is very difficult to generalise the difficulties faced, because each individual site may have its challenge. For example, in some cases, the rezoning faces objections from local residents. Another example that I may give you, for example a site near industrial areas which has been earmarked GIC  site, we want to rezone it into a residential site, then the proximity of this particular site to the nearby industrial buildings could be a concern. On the other hand, whether those industrial buildings are still having active manufacturing business, this is another issue. So, in terms of rezoning, there is a lot of discussion required among the relevant government departments, the district councils and local residents. But, we are determined to do all possible to speed up the process, and to try to overcome the difficulties.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Thursday, August 30, 2012
Issued at HKT 22:23