Over 7,000 public housing units sold to private market

Friday, April 15, 2011
Issue 1285, Page 5
Word count: 494
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Government revealed to lawmakers yesterday that about 30 percent of the 24,000 affordable housing units that were sold to local residents since 1985 have already entered the private property market.

The Third Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly continued deliberation of the draft bill of the affordable housing construction and sale system.

President of the committee, Cheang Chi Keong, told reporters after the meeting that according to statistics provided by officials, the Government sold 24,000 public housing flats to Macau residents between 1985 up to the end of 2010.

Around 23,000 units had passed lock-up period, which currently stands at six years and 31 percent or 7,182 units had been sold by occupants in the private property market.

Cheang said the standing committee yesterday has not yet ascertained whether 31 percent was a ‘large or small proportion’, but stressed that the data will be a significant indicator when lawmakers begin consideration of systems of sale in the draft bill at a later time.

“The government has clearly stated that the new affordable housing policy will impose tough requirements on people who wish to sell the units. Based on the figures we will think about whether the sale system will need to be further tightened,” he said.

The draft bill proposes to extend the lock-up period from 10 years to 16 years.

Cheang said that committee members also expressed concerns about certain application requirements that may contradict the intention of the legislation, to ensure that the limited resources are used for people who are ‘truly in need [of public housing]’.

According to the committee president, lawmakers will hold discussions on whether it is necessary to establish mechanisms to disallow people who own real estate outside of Macau to apply for affordable housing. Also reviewed will be the issue of occupant requirements of returning their units to the Government if a private property is purchased, and preventing the use of company names where they are the largest shareholder to purchase real estate to meet application requirements.

In the current draft bill, not only will applicants be subject to income base and ceiling, they also cannot own any property (in their name) five years prior to application.

Cheang said a thorough consideration of opinions needs to be exchanged with the Government, adding that there are many issues that require resolution if such mechanisms were to be implemented.

In addition, he said the committee has questioned the need to reserve a proportion of affordable housing units mainly for the use of resettlement for residents affected by old neighbourhood renewal projects, or people with emergency or special needs as recommended by the Social Welfare Bureau.

Even if the proposal is put forward, Cheang said these people who are given the opportunity to jump the queue, should need to pass a separate eligibility assessment or otherwise it may be unfair to other applicants on the waiting list.

The standing committee will hold the next meeting at 10.30am next Thursday.

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