The recent changes in Hong Kong’s stamp duty rules indicate that the government recognises that the ownership of multiple flats is not desirable.
The 2017 policy address suggests we need 460,000 units in the next decade. But what are we trying to achieve exactly? We should be clear as to what the problems are and what long-term solutions might address these problems, rather than provide short-term, knee-jerk reactions.
Let us assume that, apart from ensuring there is sufficient housing for everyone, one of the aims is to see a greater percentage of the population living in homes that they own.
This requires an adequate supply of housing – of the right type and price.
Unfortunately, property developers do not build flats in order to provide homes; housing is just another commodity which is traded to help people get richer. The latest moves to make the buying of multiple flats more expensive are commendable, and clearly aimed at reducing the number of people owning multiple flats, but it is too easy to get around the system.
To achieve the increased home-ownership goal, we may need a more extreme approach; for example, we could introduce a rule that you must live in any property you own, that is, one household, one property.
People will try to think of ways of getting around this too, so there will need to be an effective means of checking that the rules are adhered to, for example, by introducing a registration system. If anyone is found to be cheating the system, the property they are not occupying could be confiscated and added to the government’s rental portfolio.
As has already been pointed out in these columns, fines are not much of a deterrent to those who have plenty of money.
Clearly, it would not be possible to introduce such a system overnight, as many people have – quite reasonably, and legally – invested their money in property, so it would be necessary to have a phased introduction.
At the same time, the ridiculous New Territories small-house policy should be scrapped and public housing residents whose circumstances have improved to the extent that they no longer need such subsidised homes should be given notice to leave.
The end result would be a greater percentage of home ownership, a reduction in the wealth gap and a reduced need to destroy our precious country parks.
Andy Statham, Happy Valley