There’s a solution to the rising property prices – but no one wants to hear it

There’s a solution to the rising property prices – but no one wants to hear it

Hong Kong’s property prices are sitting at an unsettlingly high level. With price per square-foot at the HKD10,000 mark, our city is the second most expensive residential property market in the world, behind London.

The government has made attempts to lower prices with property cooling measures, but they have so far proved to be ineffectual. 77 per cent of Hongkongers still can’t afford a flat.

“There is a demand-supply issue,” said Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung in the understatement of the year. The most recent round of public housing sales saw 135,000 people apply for a measly 2,160 flats.

Many of us believe that prices are high simply because the city is densely populated. However, the perceived land scarcity issue in Hong Kong is a whole lot of hot air. We have plenty of available land; it’s just being used inefficiently.

“We need time, and land, to build homes,” said Cheung, reprising his role as Captain Obvious. “But when you go to every district, people object to [the construction of] public housing.”

He’s not wrong. We’ve seen how violently villagers have reacted to the government’s north-eastern NewTerritories development plan. Environmentalists have vehemently rejected the idea of reclaiming small portions of country park land for housing; the bourgeoisies aren’t giving up their beloved golf courses either. Everyone agrees that something has to be done to curb housing prices, but no one is willing to make any compromises.

There’s a solution to our woes, a solution which will no doubt be met with intense opposition. We can bulldoze the golf courses, part of the country parks, the more sparsely populated villages, and then build public housing estates on top of them. Everyone will now be able to have a decently-sized home and housing prices will surely collapse. Problem solved.

Though effective, this plan is, in reality, unachievable. Our current government is filled with weak and incompetent bureaucrats who naturally feel the need to appease everyone. They don’t want to deal with crazed bamboo-wielding villagers, they don’t want to deal with the crying environmentalists, and they certainly do not want to deal with the wealthy, perhaps powerful, golfers. 

More often than not, the said bureaucrats are also property owners. It’s easy to see why they are reluctant to impose effective property cooling measures.

Ruthless pragmatism is the way forward for Hong Kong. With or without democracy, we need a strong government that is able to deliver effective solutions to critical issues such as housing. We need a government that will not bend under the slightest bit of pressure. People are hugely dissatisfied with the current situation; we must take care of those who are suffering in cage homes or sub-divided flats before we start worrying about the wining tree-huggers or displaced villagers. Everyone has to make sacrifices for the greater good. 

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Property solution


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