Making HA pay for housing waits just a funny idea: CE

Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday said making the Housing Authority (HA) pay subsidies to people who’ve been waiting too long for a flat was just a ‘funny idea’ she’d come up with, not a serious proposal.

Under a pilot scheme recently implemented by the government, monthly cash allowances are given to applicants who have queued up for public housing for over three years – the maximum waiting period pledged by the HA.

Lam had said in a television interview over the weekend that the authority – the city’s main provider of public flats – should be made to fork out the money from its own budget as an incentive to speed up the provision of new flats.

But she told the media on Tuesday that her comment was made off the cuff in the midst of an hour-long live interview.

“Some media had quoted more accurately [in saying] it was a funny idea or thought, and not a proposal. If it was a proposal or government policy it would have been written down in the 2021 Policy Address,” she said.

Lam added that reports that characterised her comments as some form of admonishment or an attempt to lay the blame on the HA, were “exaggerations” that had “pointlessly created social conflict.”

The CE instead praised the authority’s efforts over the past years, though she did say there is room to streamline the procedure for designing, approving and building public flats.

“The Housing Authority’s flats are not private properties. It’s not subject to the Buildings Ordinance. It doesn’t have to submit its floor plans to the Buildings Department,” Lam noted.

“So, for sure it can look at whether there’s room to streamline its internal procedures, and to shorten the time for the preparation and construction of the flats to less than four or five years,” she said.

Lam said she’s ready to meet with members of the authority to discuss the matter.

In response, Lai Kin-kwok from the Hong Kong Subdivided Flats Concerning Platform said it doesn’t matter to people whether the cash allowance comes from the Housing Authority or the government, as long as it encourages the government to solve the housing problem.