Friday, January 13, 2012

scmp: HK residents first in flats plan to stop speculators


HK residents first in flats plan to stop speculators

Housing Society wants to ban corporate buyers at six projects with apartments costing up to HK$5.5 million

The Housing Society plans to give priority to Hong Kong residents in its latest project, becoming the first developer to set such a condition for a private development.

Wong Kit-loong, the society's chief executive, said yesterday: "We want to give priority to Hong Kong people in buying our flats and we'll not accept corporate buyers. This will reduce speculative activities."

With an increasing number of property investors from the mainland, there have been calls for the government to designate land for building flats to be sold only to locals. Last week chief executive hopeful Leung Chun-ying suggested limiting sales of new flats to Hong Kong residents, to keep property prices at reasonable levels. Academics, however, fear this smacks of protectionism and would affect the city's reputation as a free economy.

The Housing Society has joined hands with the Urban Renewal Authority to develop six private residential developments, five in Sham Shui Po and one in Shau Kei Wan, to provide more than 1,400 flats.

The first development to be launched is Heya Green, which will go on pre-sale as early as April and is expected to be ready in the third quarter of next year. It is located at 18 Po On Road in Sham Shui Po and will have 327 flats. About 80 per cent are two-bedroom flats of 570 square feet while the rest are three-bedroom flats of 780 sq ft.

These were non-subsidised flats that would be sold at market prices, the society said. The current rate is HK$6,000 to HK$7,000 per sq ft, so they will cost between HK$3.4 million and HK$5.5 million.

"They will be simple but elegant flats without luxury facilities but have high efficiency rates of about 80 per cent," Wong said.

Daniel Lau King-shing, the society's director of development and marketing, said any Hongkonger would be able to buy the flats, without any restrictions on income or assets. The society is considering selling the apartments to local permanent residents.

Democrat legislator Lee Wing-tat criticised the society for its overlapping role with private developers, saying that the statutory body should provide housing "with a social objective" such as helping first-time homebuyers to attain ownership. Lee liked the idea of selling only to Hongkongers, but without any income and resale restrictions, he said, the projects would still attract investors and speculators.

Andy Ho Ming-pui, Midland Realty's director of Kowloon district, said the prices were reasonable and would draw some first-time buyers.

The Housing Society is a non-profit organisation that is also the biggest provider of subsidised housing in Hong Kong after the Housing Authority.

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