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‘Urban homes too dear even for me’

Phila Siu

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The man tipped to become the next housing chief says property prices are so high in popular urban areas that he cannot afford to live there.

Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said he is moving to somewhere else in Tai Po when he vacates the property that comes with the job which ends on June 30.

“I have looked at a lot of housing information in urban areas and the prices are very high,” he said.

“That’s why I will be staying in Tai Po. I cannot afford to move to the urban areas.”

Cheung, also chairman of the Housing Authority’s subsidized housing committee and an Executive Council member, is moving into a 2,000-square-foot apartment.

“Can many in the new generation afford the downpayment within 10 years of their graduation?” he asked.

“If we use this criteria, it seems property prices at present are very high.

If many people think the government must intervene, the government should consider doing so.”

But he said it would be wrong to make the generalization all properties in Hong Kong are too expensive as prices reflect supply and demand.

Cheung agreed with Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying’s earlier proposal that property sales in some projects should be made only to Hongkongers.

The proposal was part of Leung’s election platform, which was based on helping people who cannot afford a private flat and are also not eligible for subsidized housing.

Cheung believes this proposal can be carried out by organizations such as the Hong Kong Housing Society and the Urban Renewal Authority.

It should be implemented because there has been concern that overseas buyers will drive up prices, he added.

However, Leung has since changed his stance. On Monday he said it was not time to implement this proposal because the entry of mainlanders into the market has not greatly affected Hongkongers.

Cheung also said that if the prices of new subsidized flats are set at 70 percent of market levels, they may still be too high for the target market.

But the Housing Authority has not made a decision on price levels yet, he added. The final level will be one that the public will find affordable.

Meanwhile, Cheung said the Hong Kong Institute of Education is now being run as a university, though it will be about two years before it can be accredited as one

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