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Property News Weekly Digest
2019/9/21
〈Taipei Times, September 21, 2019〉Pro-establishment politicians have floated aggressive proposals to boost land supply for public housing, including building flats on top of the West Kowloon high-speed railway station, a week after Beijing backed their call for the government to take back land from developers.

The recommendations, made to the Development Bureau yesterday by the Federation of Trade Unions, came as the lawmaker for developers blasted the government for trying to press on with a vacancy tax without adequate discussion in the legislature.

Tensions between the administration and developers have intensified as Beijing has put pressure on property tycoons to help ease the city's crippling political crisis and social unrest.

Last week, state media specifically endorsed a proposal by the city's largest pro-Beijing party for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to invoke the Lands Resumption Ordinance and take back swathes of rural land lying unused as a quick fix for the shortage of sites for housing.

With district council elections in November and suggestions that unaffordable property is a cause of the unrest that has gripped Hong Kong for months, political parties are keen to offer solutions for housing issues.

Federation lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen said the ordinance should be used to take back all 172 hectares of Fanling golf course, rather than the 32 hectares endorsed by the government.

〈Asian Post, September 21, 2019〉Sales of flats in Singapore worth at least S$10 million (HK$57 million) have hit an 11-year high, fuelled by demand from Chinese seeking safe-haven assets, property consultants OrangeTee & Tie says.

Investors have long viewed Singapore as an island of stability that attracts the super-rich from its less developed Southeast Asian neighbours, as well as multimillionaires from the mainland.

In the first eight months of the year, 68 condominiums were sold for S$10 million and more, the highest tally since the corresponding period of 2008. Sales of such properties also exceeded the numbers racked up for each full year from 2011 to 2018.

Some buyers may have sought an alternative to Hong Kong, hit by protests, while others might have shifted funds amid the trade war between the United States and China, an OrangeTee expert said. "This may explain why we have observed more foreign buyers, especially mainland Chinese, coming into Singapore lately," said Christine Sun, its head of research and consultancy.

In Singapore's prime districts, Chinese citizens bought 76 flats worth more than S$5 million in the period from January to August, versus 75 by Singaporeans.

Expensive flats in premium neighbourhoods are mainly bought by foreigners because Singaporeans have the option to buy landed property, such as bungalows and mansions, which is not an option for foreigners except on the resort island of Sentosa.

〈China Daily, September 20, 2019〉The three months of demonstrations, frequently marked by violence, in Hong Kong have dealt a serious blow to its economy, especially the tourism and retail sectors. Latest statistics show the number of tourists visiting Hong Kong in August reduced by about 2.4 million, a decline of nearly 40 percent year-on-year, and caused an economic loss of about 12 billion yuan ($1.69 billion).

The three months of demonstrations, frequently marked by violence, in Hong Kong have dealt a serious blow to its economy, especially the tourism and retail sectors. Latest statistics show the number of tourists visiting Hong Kong in August reduced by about 2.4 million, a decline of nearly 40 percent year-on-year, and caused an economic loss of about 12 billion yuan ($1.69 billion).

Other sectors, too, have suffered damage. For instance, some logistics companies' turnover has declined 50 percent in recent months. And in the first half of August, the passenger and freight volumes of Hong Kong International Airport declined 11 percent and 14 percent year-on-year.

Logistics, finance, tourism, retail and special services are pillar industries of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The trade and logistics sectors account for 21 percent of Hong Kong's GDP and employ about 25 percent of its workforce. The SAR's gross domestic product has been declining since the US launched a trade war against China, and the demonstrations have further worsened the situation. Many even fear the SAR's economy could step into technical recession.

Worse, the demonstrations' direct effect on Hong Kong's pillar industries might spread to other sectors. In the short term, Hong Kong's tourism industry has suffered huge losses, affecting more than 250,000 employees in the tourism sector and upstream-downstream industries, and their families. But in the long run, the real victims of a turbulent society and sluggish economy will be the youths many of whom have taken part in the three-month-long demonstrations.

〈Asian Post, September 19, 2019〉Real estate professionals expect home prices, sales and rents will fall in Hong Kong over the next 12 months as protests continue with no end in sight, according to a new survey.

That is quite a change from the survey in June, the month peaceful protests kicked off in a colourful stream of umbrellas. At the time, the professionals said they expected prices, sales and rents would go up.

The Confidence Index, compiled by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and local online property listing portal Spacious, shows the positive or negative sentiment of respondents, with higher numbers signalling stronger feelings.

Last month, overall confidence in the property market was negative 76. That was down from negative 54 in July and positive 4 in June.

"Although some survey respondents cited tariff escalation between China and the United States as a headwind, the ongoing political unrest continues to be the main catalyst cited as driving market pessimism," said Sean Ellison, RICS senior economist for Asia-Pacific.

"Participants also commented that a cessation of the protests appears to be unlikely in the near term, which perhaps contributed to the more subdued medium-term outlook for the market."

〈The Standard, September 18, 2019〉A scheme to help elderly owners of subsidized flats sell their homes and buy smaller ones will be launched on October 14, the Hong Kong Housing Society announced.

Owners of some 1,300 flats in 11 developments are eligible for the scheme.

The "Flat for Flat Pilot Scheme for Elderly Owners" enables those aged 60 or above, who have owned a subsidized unit under the society for 10 years or more, to sell their flats on the society's secondary market.

They will then be permitted to buy a smaller flat among the 390,000 with premiums unpaid in the same market, or on the secondary market under the Hong Kong Housing Authority.

To be eligible, the owners and listed family members of the flat must all be 60 or above.

The owners or listed family members must also not have owned or sold domestic properties in Hong Kong for two years before submitting an application and until the signing the provisional agreement for sale and purchase.

Wong Kit-loong, the society's chief executive, said the scheme aims to provide elderly owners with a way to move to a unit that better suits their needs. The vacated flats can be used for families who need more living space.

"All owners have to be clear about their financial situation and living arrangements before joining the scheme," he said.