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HONG KONG - Our Hong Kong Foundation on Wednesday proposed a housing initiative inspired by the Singapore model, which the local leading think tank said would boost the homeownership rate in the least affordable property market to 70 to 80 percent over time.
The foundation said it has submitted a detailed proposal, Affordable Home-Ownership for All Hong Kong People, to the government. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is expected to deliver the 2019 Policy Address in October after public consultation started two months ago.
Of 10 recommendations under the foundation"s initiative, the "Tenants Purchase Scheme 2.0" allows public rental housing (PRH) tenants to purchase their rental units for 25 percent of the average market price. The original Tenants Purchase Scheme was introduced in Hong Kong in 1998 in a similar model and terminated in 2005.
The PRH program provides subsidized housing for permanent residents who cannot afford private rental housing. Currently, about 3.3 million residents — 44.7 percent of the city"s population — live in PRH.
The foundation also suggested that if the property owner wants to sell the unit purchased under the program, the premium should be fixed at the level the day the unit was first sold, which means the property"s value will not appreciate.
In Singapore, whose economic structure, landmass size and population are similar to those of Hong Kong, more than 80 percent of its resident population live in public housing, and about 90 percent of public-housing dwellers own the home.
Singapore"s Home Ownership for the People Scheme enables the city state"s citizens to buy apartments at affordable prices from the government on a 99-year lease basis.
The think tank suggested the government provide a buy-or-rent option to households on the waiting list of PRH.
Ryan Ip Man-ki, head of land and housing research of Our Hong Kong Foundation, said he believes the program to allow tenants to purchase the rental units in the short term may slightly prolong waiting times for those on the PRH waiting list. Thus, the government has to provide rent subsidies to households at the top of the list to relieve the cost pressure during the waiting period.
According to the Hong Kong Housing Authority, the current waiting time for PRH is 5.4 years.
The initiative also urged the government to provide interest-free loans to those younger than 40 and first-time buyers who want to purchase public or private property with a capped price at HK$8 million ($1.02 million).
On the same day, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong — the largest political party in the city — also said a relaunch of the Tenants Purchase Scheme could be a solution. The party has been proposing the idea to the government in recent years.
Some DAB members on Wednesday attended a roundtable meeting on housing and land issues with Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan and Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun.
In August 2018, Our Hong Kong Foundation released a research report that proposed a 2,200-hectare reclamation project off Lantau Island in southwest Hong Kong to alleviate the city"s acute land and housing shortage. Two months later, the Hong Kong government announced its plan in the Policy Address to build 1,700 hectares of artificial islands in that area. Tung Chee-hwa, vice-chairman of the Chinese People"s Political Consultative Conference National Committee and former Hong Kong chief executive, is the foundation"s chairman.
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