Lam says affordable housing a top priority

Chief executive candidate Mrs Lam's other top priorities are improving education and implementing a new tax system.
Chief executive candidate Mrs Lam's other top priorities are improving education and implementing a new tax system.

It would take 12 years for a young Hong Kong couple earning a joint income of HK$60,000 (S$11,000) a month to save up for the down payment of a 450 sq ft flat which costs HK$6 million.

Rising property prices have made the dream of owning a home even more remote for many young families, said chief executive hopeful Carrie Lam yesterday as she laid out plans to help more young people own a home.

Mrs Lam said she hopes to do so by building affordable "starter homes" for middle-class families. These will be priced above those under the current home ownership scheme, but will come under the private market, she said.

She also plans to expand the subsidised home ownership scheme so that those whose economic conditions have improved can move on to own a flat and vacate public rental units meant for those on the waiting list. There are about 280,000 families in the queue for a public rental flat.

Many had looked to incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying to solve the city's housing woes after he pledged to make it his top priority when he took office in 2012.

Instead, property prices soared to new highs, resulting in more discontent in the city and driving thousands of young people to join the student-led Occupy movement primarily to fight for greater rights to elect the city's leader.

At a press conference yesterday, Mrs Lam, 59, Hong Kong's former No. 2 official, made it clear that improving living conditions, investing more in education and implementing a new tax system to improve Hong Kong's competitiveness remain her top priorities.

She did not address concerns over political reform and national security issues, which were raised by her rivals. She said she would do so at a later stage.

Former finance chief John Tsang, former security chief Regina Ip and retired judge Woo Kwok Hing have also announced their candidacies.

Mrs Lam said her full manifesto will be out only in the first half of next month. She attributed the delay to her new style of governance, in which she vowed to listen to all sectors of the community so as to implement effective measures.

To lighten the burden of small and medium-sized enterprises, Mrs Lam said she would reduce the tax rate for firms with an annual profit of less than HK$2 million from 16.5 per cent to 10 per cent.

Pledging to increase government spending on education by HK$5 million each year, she said the goal is to "nurture our young people to be responsible members of society, with a sense of their nation and a love for Hong Kong".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Lam says affordable housing a top priority'. Print Edition | Subscribe