By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io pledged that the government has “absolute confidence” in building 19,000 public housing units by the end of 2012, adding “there will only be more and not less”.
He also announced yesterday that the social housing reconstruction tenders will be staged within this year and Seac Pai Van will be ready to start the public housing construction at the end of August.
The Secretary attended the second day of the plenary meeting at the Legislative Assembly to continue answering lawmakers’ oral queries.
In response to Paul Chan Wai Chi’s inquiry into the progress of the 19,000 public housing unit construction plan, Lau Si Io said the projects that are expected to be completed this year include the economic housing in Rua da Tranquilidade do Hipodrómo, Cheng Choi Building of the Ilha Verde social housing complex and the first phase of the Mong Ha social housing complex.
The TN27 economic housing in Estrada Coronel Nicolau de Mesquita, Taipa is also expected to finish construction in 2011.
As for the Seac Pai Van public housing project, Lau Si Io said the preliminary land formation work has been started the end of last year. It is now in the stage of infrastructure design and he said the first land parcel should be made ready for construction at the end of August or early September.
In order to increase the efficiency of land use and refurbish aging buildings, the SAR government has implemented a social housing reconstruction plan, and in which demolition will be first carried out in the Fai Chi Kei Housing Estate.
Lau Si Io said the design work has been completed and the reconstruction tender for the new Fai Chi Kei Housing Estate will be held this year.
Consisting of six blocks of six-storey buildings built between 1979 and 1981, there are 240 social housing units and 216 households about 550 people are currently living in the estate.
Of them, 75 households include family members aged 65 or above.
After the reconstruction, the new estate will come with lifts and also provide 700 social housing units.
It is planned that the 216 households will all be relocated in the first half of this year and the first batch of the tenants will move into the Fai Chi Kei social housing shortly.
In addition, Lau Si Io said the reconstruction tenders for the Julieta Nobre de Carvalho Building and Angélica Lopes Santos Building in Toi San will be staged this year as well.
The two buildings are both social housing for the elderly and have more than 40 years of history.
There are currently a total of 120 households with 130 people living in the two five-storey towers. Of them, 125 occupants are 65 years old or above.
In regard to the Mong Ha Barrack site, Lau Si Io told the legislature the government did not yet have a final decision about launching a rental program for the newly-wed couples, but stressed that the site will be used for building economic housing and the tender will also be staged this year.
However, the Secretary for Transport and Public Works was reluctant to disclose a timetable indicating the exact dates of when the construction can be completed in phases.
“19,000 public housing units aren’t a small number, it’s not practical to set a timetable. But I can assure that in 2012 we will have 19,000 public housing units. The quantity will only be more and not less,” he vowed.
Lau Si Io admitted that the government is facing a number of challenges such as human resources and relocation of tenants, but “our team must try our very best to achieve the goal set in the policy address.
“We have absolute confidence in finishing the construction of 19,000 public housing units by the end of 2012,” he said.
Social housing waiting list
Meanwhile, the Secretary for Transport and Public Works told the lawmakers the Housing Bureau will arrange eligible households on the waiting list to move into social housing units as soon as possible after they are completed.
Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On has said earlier that he agreed a social housing waiting period is necessary. According to Lau Si Io, related research work is going to be implemented within this year and a consultation will be launched to encourage public participation and collect opinions.
“By combining with scientific data and doing analysis, [the government can] make the final proposal and the date,” he said.
The newly established Public Housing Affairs Committee will be responsible to work on the waiting period, he added.
As for a waiting period of economic housing, Lau Si Io said the government will continue to “pay close attention to it and carry out thorough research cautiously”.
Economic housing allocations
The Secretary disclosed at the legislature the revision on the economic housing legislation has already entered the final stage.
He said an all-round review has been conducted on the requirements for purchasing economic housing. Of which, upper and lower income limits will be introduced, the non-transferable period will be extended, owners will have to make up the price difference when selling their units, and units can only be sold to people who are eligible to buy economic housing.
In addition, after looking at the existing allocation system, Lau Si Io said besides scoring points, the government is considering to adopt other allocation methods based on the time factor and the quantity of completed economic housing units.
To stabilise the property market
In response to lawmaker Lee Chong Cheng’s query, Lau Si Io said he will present the long-term strategic plan for the housing development to the Legislative Assembly no later than mid-July this year.
The plan, he said, will cover a wide range of housing issues including property sales and transactions of uncompleted residential properties in Macau.
He admitted that it is the government’s responsibility to promote healthy development in the real estate market, and “real estate speculation is one of the factors that constitute unhealthy development”.
Lau Si Io revealed the government is doing research on this issue and details will be announced later.
In order to regulate real estate agencies and raise the business level of real estate practitioners, the Secretary told the legislature since 2007 the SAR government has initiated a research project on real estate business.
The project went through consultation in the following year and after that a bill concerning the licensing and regulatory system for real estate agents has been formulated.
“At present the related legislative procedure is being implemented orderly and further information will be released in due course”, Lau Si Io said.
Income subsidy fraud
On the other hand, deputy director of the Financial Services Bureau, Vitória Conceição also attended the plenary meeting to respond to lawmaker Lam Heong Sang’s oral query concerning the income subsidy scheme.
According to the deputy director, since the scheme was launched in 2008, a total of 3,878 people have benefited from it involving an amount of more than MOP65 million.
She also said that in the past two years, 11 and seven beneficiaries respectively in 2008 and 2009 went to cancel receiving the subsidies after the bureau sent an inspection team to check the cases.
The bureau also requested 17 beneficiaries to return the subsidies they had received amounting to about MOP410,000 after their applications were found to be false, she added.
Vitória Conceição said the bureau will submit statistics of applications and approved cases to the Labour Affairs Bureau regularly so that the Standing Committee for the Coordination of Social Affairs can jointly oversee the scheme and provide suggestions for improvement.
She also reiterated that all beneficiaries if found to have handed in false information will be requested to return the subsidies, have their qualification eliminated and also liable to legal responsibility.