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Editorial : All focus on housing in the policy address

【明報專訊】CHIEF Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will present the policy address today (Oct 10), in which the issue of land and housing is expected to top the agenda. With the Task Force on Land Supply releasing its report only at the end of this year, what the policy address will propose today about increasing land supply is of wide concern. Hong Kong society has been facing too many long-standing major problems that are hard to tackle. The Sino-US trade war is adding even more uncertainties to the local economic outlook. It is impractical to expect the policy address to magically solve all the problems at once. Still, the policy address should bring hopes to our society and boost people's confidence that they still have a chance to improve the situation regarding those pressing problems. It should not give people the impression that they can only leave everything to destiny helplessly and "wait for good luck".

The second policy address by Lam will be one-fifth longer than the one last year. It is expected to unveil about 250 new initiatives covering various policy areas related to people's livelihood. It is understood that the government will provide subsidies for upgrading old elevators, propose extending the statutory maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks, upgrade all primary and secondary school teaching posts to graduate posts, build more public markets in new towns and so forth. Yesterday Lam said that good progress had been made in implementing the 250 initiatives set out in the last policy address and 78 of them had already been implemented so far. However, what people care about most is the problem of land and housing. Obviously, the government still has to redouble its efforts in this regard. It is natural that all focus is on whether there will be a well-thought-out plan in today's policy address.

With intricate issues faced by Hong Kong society, only a populist will say there is a "wonder drug" that can wipe out the problems quickly. It is impossible for the government to solve the old knotty problem of land and housing in one shot with a single policy address. Nevertheless, the policy address should at least convey a message of hope to society. It should give people a real feeling that the government is determined to clear all the blocks in the way of expanding land and is willing to build more subsidised flats as well as cater to the needs of common people in finding and buying homes. The Task Force on Land Supply will release its report only at the end of this year. The government should then choose from the 18 options of increasing land supply on the basis of the report. But preliminary directions for finding land for housing can still be largely laid out in the policy address for the sake of better preparatory work.

The most prominent question asked during the debate on land supply is whether the land newly obtained by the government will be mostly used for private housing. The most common reason offered by some in opposing certain land supply options is "all land gained will only be used to build luxurious flats", which is actually an attempt to shift people's attention to class conflicts and miso-affluence mentality. The current ratio of public to private housing supply is 6:4. In order to dispel doubts about who will benefit from the increase of land supply, the policy address should elaborate clearly how that ratio can be changed and how the proportion of subsidised housing can be increased. Of course, if the shortfall in land supply remains unchanged, increasing the ratio of public to private housing may possibly lead to the market's anticipation of inadequate private housing supply and thus higher pressure of property price increase. However, the "pie of land supply" can be enlarged if the government takes multi-pronged measures like speeding up the process of finding more land for new housing from short to long terms as well as building land reserves by way of land reclamation on a large scale. Foreseeably this may help to lower the anticipation of inadequate private housing supply effectively.

明報社評2018.10.10:施政報告聚焦房屋 需為社會帶來希望

行政長官林鄭月娥今天發表施政報告,土地房屋問題是重中之重。土地小組報告年底才會面世,施政報告如何處理增加土地供應問題,各方注視。香港社會面對太多老大難問題,中美貿易戰更為本港經濟前景增添不明朗因素,難望變法術般一下子化解,施政報告應該要為社會帶來希望,做到穩定民心,令市民覺得切身問題有機會改善,而非無助地只能事事隨緣「等運到」。

今次是林鄭第2份施政報告,篇幅將較去年長兩成,大約250項新措施將涵蓋多個民生範疇。據了解,政府將資助舊式升降機改善工程、推動法定產假由10周加長至14周、落實中小學教師全面學位化、在部分新市鎮興建公眾街市等等。林鄭昨天提到,去年施政報告提出約250項措施,進展大致良好,迄今已有78項落實完成。然而市民最關心的土地房屋問題,政府顯然仍需加把勁處理,今次施政報告能否交出良方善策,自然成為焦點所在。

香港社會問題千頭萬緒,只有民粹主義者,才會聲稱有「特效藥」可以迅速藥到病除。一份施政報告,不可能一蹴而就解決老大難的土地房屋問題,惟至少需要為社會帶來希望,令市民切實覺得政府決心排除種種阻力開拓土地,願意增加興建資助房屋,滿足一般市民住屋和置業需要。土地小組報告年底才公布,18個土地供應選項如何取捨,政府應以報告為依歸,然而施政報告可以多就覓地建屋提出初步方向,做好前期準備。

土地大辯論期間一個最突出的問題,是政府開拓所得土地,會否大多數用來興建私樓,部分人為求反對某些土地選項,最常搬出來的說辭,就是「所得土地都是用來建豪宅」,企圖以階級矛盾和仇富情緒轉移視線。目前公私營房屋供應比例為6:4,施政報告應清楚交代如何調整比例、如何增加資助房屋比重,釋除市民對增加土地供應誰人得益的疑慮。當然,在土地供應不足情况下,調高公營對私營房屋比例,有可能令市場產生私樓供應不足的預期,增加樓價上升壓力,然而政府若能多管齊下,加快短中長期覓地建屋步伐,透過大規模填海造地建立土地儲備,將土地供應的餅顯著做大,相信可以有效降低私樓供應不足的預期。

■Glossary

top sth : to be in the highest position on a list because you are the most successful, important, etc.

intricate : having a lot of different parts and small details that fit together

knotty : complicated and difficult to solve

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