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STH on Long Term Housing Strategy Annual Progress Report 2016
     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, on the Long Term Housing Strategy Annual Progress Report 2016 at a media session this afternoon (December 20):

Reporter: The 10-year target is the same as last year. But you have been able to only locate less land than the year before. Is it becoming more and more difficult to find suitable land? Can you tell us some of the difficulties in looking for suitable sites for public and subsidised flats? And, also, can you tell us whether the new stamp duty is working as effectively as the Government has expected?

Secretary for Transport and Housing: Maybe your second question first. We are watching the market very closely, in terms of the number of transactions, the price level, following the introduction of the new 15 per cent stamp duty measure. Of course, so far, it's still quite early to make any firm assessment, because the measure was introduced slightly more than one month ago. If you look at the figures, sometimes the figures are lagging behind - the actual dated transaction as far as the collection of data is concerned - so we are not entirely sure whether the figures before us are all sort of post-15 per cent measure figures. So, we need to give a bit more time. But, based on market intelligence and our observation, we think that the market has stabilised because of the new measure. There are still transactions, but not as heated as before. Prices, in our view, are becoming stabilised. But, I think, we need more time in order to make any firm assessment of the situation.

     As to your first question, the simple answer is yes, because we have more difficulty to get land sites suitable for developing public housing. Last year, based on the number of sites in hand, and based on our sort of good case scenario, we expected that we could get slightly more than 250 000 units out of the 10 years. But, this time round, when we recently conducted another assessment of the situation, we find that it becomes more difficult. And some of the reasons are spelt out in the document itself. But mainly it has to deal with the planning process, which has become more lengthy and more complicated, because the absolute majority of the land sites that we have are not spade-ready. So, we have to do all kinds of pre-construction stage work. We need planning changes. We need to do more local consultations, both informal and formal. And in the planning process, objecting to housing projects has become almost a given. So it takes time to sort out all the local views and local objections, and sometimes we also face judicial challenges. So all these mean that time will take longer. And, earlier, when I answered the question about Wang Chau, at the moment, phase one of Wang Chau development is still within our 10-year time frame. But who knows? If the Wang Chau development faces more challenges than what we have allowed, then, of course, the figure will come under great pressure.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 19:31
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