Lawmakers raise concerns over public housing law enforcement

Saturday, May 14, 2011
Issue 1306, Page5
Word count: 509
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Concerns have been expressed by some lawmakers about the Housing Bureau’s (IHM) ability to enforce the law regarding affordable housing. The method of ascertaining whether an occupant is in breach of the law of use of residential units is in question.

President of the Third Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly, Cheang Chi Keong, told reporters following a meeting with government officials that according to the information provided by IHM, a total of 42 cases between 2006 and April 2011 have been identified as being in breach of the terms of use of affordable housing.

Of those, 31 cases involved renting units to a third party or converting units into a warehouse, and another five cases involved false information submitted by the occupants to IHM.

Cheang said 14 occupants were fined, two were forced to return their public housing units to the government and one had their affordable housing application eligibility removed.

“The statistics showed that the problem does exist in the public housing market and the standing committee is worried about whether the IHM has the capability to execute the new law, since the related department currently has only 17 investigators for many affordable housing units in Macau,” he pointed out.

“It’s a major concern because without effective enforcement, it’s useless no matter how well made the law is,” he added.

Cheang said the standing committee has called on the government to ensure a strong monitoring mechanism is implemented to prevent violations in the future.

Cheang did point out that the draft law concerning the sale and construction system of affordable housing did not specify whether occupants are able to sub lease units following the proposed 16 year lock-up period.

Yet, he said a majority of the lawmakers deemed that making a profit on public housing unit rentals should be prohibited, especially with no compensation made to the government.

Diverse opinions surrounding the subsequent sale of units following the 16 year lock-up period have been reported. While some suggest units should be resold back to the government, the law currently also proposes that a land premium payment is required prior to the units being sold in the private market.

Cheang said both proposals have their own rationales, but the final decision is in the hands of the government who need to consider which better reflects the purpose of the legislation, which is “to solve the housing problem for residents with true needs”.

Furthermore, the committee president quoted secretary for Public Works and Transport Lau Si Io as saying that the government is determined to cancel the existing cooperation model with private developers under the new law, so that all public housing construction in future will be fully government funded.

The standing committee will hold their next meeting on Monday to discuss the last of the seven topics concerning construction standards and the lot drawing mechanism for housing allocation.

Cheang said the committee has confidence that the deliberation of the draft law can be completed before the two-month summer break of the legislature in mid-August.

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