Hong Kong boosts land supply to cool property market

HONG KONG Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:13am GMT

1 of 2. Protesters sit on a make-shift bed depicting sub-divided residential units to protest against high property prices outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong January 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Embattled new Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said in his maiden policy speech on Wednesday that subsidised and public housing supply would be bolstered in an effort to address the city's red-hot property market.

Leung will be hoping the populist policy will help salvage his battered reputation and shore up his political future after several scandals, mass protests, and a failed impeachment in his first six months in office.

Hong Kong's sky-high property prices, some of the world's highest, have seen the spread of cage homes, wire mesh hutches stacked on top of each other and cubicle apartments as the city's residents are forced out of the property market.

"Land shortage has seriously stifled our social and economic development and smothered many opportunities for people to start and expand their businesses," Leung said.

Leung said more land would be rezoned for housing and new areas opened up for development, with some 67,000 private units expected to come onto the market in the next three to four years, and a target of some 100,000 subsidised public housing units to be built in the five years from 2018.

In one project 2,000 to 3,000 hectares of land will be made available for housing by reclaiming land outside Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour.

Hong Kong and Singapore, fierce rivals as financial and wealth centres in Asia, are both struggling with over-heated property markets that have driven housing prices beyond the reach of many locals.

Both cities have identical 15 percent levies to slow foreign money into property, but the curbs on residential real estate could shift demand to retail and industrial, diverting billions of dollars to those sectors, as well as to housing markets in the United States, Canada, Australia and Malaysia.

(Reporting by James Pomfret and Christina Lo; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Michael Perry)

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