Former Hong Kong Leader Signals Housing Is the Next Big Target

Hong Kong’s new electoral system will help the government tackle livelihood issues including a lack of housing, former leader Leung Chun-ying said.

A shortage of homes “is the root of a lot of social and economic problems in Hong Kong,” Leung said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. “We need to create more land for housing units.”

Though Leung left office more than four years ago, his position as vice chairman of China’s top political advisory body means his views carry weight. His comments suggest Beijing wants the local administration to focus on resolving longstanding problems afflicting the former British colony, after stamping out protests that paralyzed the city in 2019 and neutralizing opposition lawmakers.

Leung backed widespread changes to the city’s legislature on Tuesday, saying it will speed up implementation of government policies. The reorganization will reduce the proportion of directly elected seats from 50% to 22% and require future candidates to be vetted by police.

“Hopefully, we’ll have less, hopefully no, filibustering, in the Legislative Council, which really plagued attempts by governments, including my government, to create more land,” said Leung, who was chief executive from 2012 to 2017.

Low interest rates and a lack of sufficient supply have fueled a bubble in property. Hong Kong’s housing market was the world’s least affordable for the 11th year in 2020, according to research firm Demographia. The government owns virtually all the land, while the city imports its monetary policy from the U.S. due to a currency peg with the greenback.

Leung said officials will likely focus on providing more units. The government rolled out a series of measures in the past decade to limit the pace of gains, such as hiking stamp duty. Current leader Carrie Lam plans to build housing on reclaimed land off the coast of Lantau island in the southwest of Hong Kong.

“We look at the statistics of who’s buying in Hong Kong now a days and you realize the demand side has been surprisingly controlled,” said Leung, who stepped down as chief executive after only one term. “We can’t be nice guys for everyone.”

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