英文

Editorial:The onus is on the government to create land

【明報專訊】AS HONG KONG is faced with a shortfall in the short- to medium-term supply of public housing, the Chief Executive has said that she will press the Housing Authority (HA) to build housing as soon as possible. She is even considering the introduction of a mechanism to hold the HA accountable. The HA is not putting up housing as quickly as private developers do. Any measure that can improve efficiency should be considered. However, it is the government itself that must bear the biggest responsibility for the dire housing problem in Hong Kong.

According to the HA's data, the total supply of public rental housing and green homes will be about 67,000 units from 2020/21 to 2024/25, averaging only 13,000 units or so per year. The situation in 2024/25 will be the worst, as the supply will drop to 5,500 units, the lowest figure since the handover. The government admits that the public housing supply in the next 10 years will be concentrated in the later years, meaning that the housing supply for the later five years will need to increase exponentially to make up for the inadequacies in the earlier years. And it is still not known whether this can be achieved. With public housing production facing a shortfall over the next couple of years, it cannot be ruled out that the waiting time for public housing will exceed six years. As for the number of households living in subdivided flats, it could rise further from the current 200,000. Members of the HA have urged the government to speed up the progress of land creation so as not to prolong the waiting time for public housing further. However, in the new Policy Address, it cannot be seen that the government has a good way to increase short-term supply substantially.

Most of the measures proposed in the Policy Address for the search of land and the building of housing are targeted at the long run. Be it the Northern Metropolis scheme or Lantau Tomorrow Vision, it will take more than 10 years before new land and buildings appear on the ground at the earliest given the speed at which land is being created currently. ''When the grass grows, the horse starves,'' as the saying goes. The government does not have a good way to significantly increase the supply of land and housing in the short to medium term. The only short-term palliative measures it can offer are mainly transitional housing, rental control for subdivided flats and cash allowances to public housing applicants. There is a backlog of 254,600 applications on the public housing waiting list, and the average waiting time has increased to 5.8 years. A few days ago, Chief Executive Carrie Lam reiterated in an interview that it is the government's goal to allow public housing applicants to get their flats within three years. She said the HA has a responsibility to build housing as soon as possible. The government will review the HA's housing construction procedures to study whether there is room for compressing them. She will also urge the HA to use more new building technologies such as prefabricated units to speed up housing construction. At the same time, she will also consider introducing mechanisms to ''reflect the spirit of accountability.'' The initial idea is that if the HA's rate of housing construction is slow, it will have to pay the cash allowance to people who have been waiting for public housing for more than three years in the place of the government.

From planning to taking in residents, it took an average of just seven years or so for new towns developed before 2000, such as Tin Shui Wai, Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung, to complete. In contrast, since the beginning of the new century, new town projects such as Kwu Tung North and Hung Shui Kiu have seen more than double the development time. As the HA's construction efficiency is lower than before, any new technology that can speed up construction should of course be actively adopted.

The central government hopes that Hong Kong will bid farewell to subdivided flats and cage homes. But the SAR government has not made a clear commitment but has got bogged down by the definition of subdivided housing. Carrie Lam has reiterated the goal of letting applicants for public housing get their flats within three years, but she has not proposed a timetable for achieving it in phases. If the government does not set itself a deadline and a hard target, it will be questionable where accountability lies.

明報社評 2021.10.12:造地不力責在政府 房屋問責涵蓋高官

公屋短中期供應面臨斷層,行政長官表示會督促房委會盡快建屋,甚至考慮引入機制,向房委會問責。房委會建屋速度不及私人發展商,任何有助提升效率的做法都應該考慮,然而香港房屋問題水深火熱,最大責任一定是政府。

根據房委會數據,由2020/21至2024/25年度,出租公屋及綠置居的總供應量約為6.7萬伙,平均每年只得1.3萬多伙,2024/25年度情况最惡劣,供應量將跌至5500伙,數字是回歸以來最低,政府承認未來10年公營房屋供應「頭輕尾重」,後5年房屋供應量需要倍增「追落後」,能否做到還是未知之數。未來數年公屋建屋量面臨斷層,不排除輪候公屋時間「破6」(超過6年),至於劏房戶數目,亦可能由目前的20萬,再向上攀升。房委會委員促請政府加快造地進度,避免等待上樓時間進一步延長,然而新一份《施政報告》,看不到當局有何良方顯著增加短期供應。

《施政報告》提出的覓地建屋措施,大多放眼長遠,北部都會區也好,明日大嶼也好,以現有開發速度,最快都要10多年後方能見地見樓,遠水難救近火。當局缺乏良方顯著增加短中期土地房屋供應,眼前止痛方法,主要只有過渡房屋、劏房租務管制,以及向公屋申請戶發放現金津貼。現時公屋輪候冊累積25.46萬宗申請,平均輪候時間增至5.8年,日前行政長官林鄭月娥受訪,重申3年上樓是政府目標,房委會有責任盡快建屋,政府下一步將檢視房委會建屋流程,研究是否有壓縮空間,她會督促房委會多用「組裝合成」等建築新技術加快建屋,同時亦可考慮引入機制「體現問責精神」,初步構思是倘若房委會建屋速度慢,便改由房委會代替政府,向輪候公屋逾3年市民支付現金津貼。

2000年前發展的新市鎮,諸如天水圍、將軍澳、東涌等,規劃至入伙平均只需7年多;相比之下,踏入新世紀以來,古洞北、洪水橋等新城鎮項目,發展時間長了一倍還不止。房委會建屋速度較過去慢,任何可以加快步伐的新技術,當然應該積極採用。

中央希望香港告別劏房籠屋,特區政府卻沒有作出明確承諾,糾纏於劏房定義;林鄭重申3年上樓目標,卻沒有提出分階段實現的時間表。政府不給自己定下死線硬目標,問責從何說起。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

palliative:(of an action, a decision, etc.) designed to make a difficult situation seem better without actually solving the cause of the problems

backlog:a quantity of work that should have been done already, but has not yet been done

prefabricated:(especially of a building) made in sections that can be put together later

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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