The government launches a two-month public consultation today on its proposal to build housing projects for Macao’s “sandwich class” – i.e. those who are not eligible to buy a flat of the government’s subsidised home-ownership scheme (HOS) but cannot afford to buy a flat from the private sector either.
A press conference about the public consultation was held on Monday on the premises of the government’s Policy Research and Regional Development Bureau (DSEPDR) in Taipa. The public consultation will end on 11 December. Two public sessions will be held later this month at the Macao Science Centre (MSC) in Nape.
The government’s public housing programme comprises subsidised HOS flats (known in Chinese and Portuguese as “economical housing”) and social rental housing units.
During yesterday’s press conference, DSEPDR Acting Director Ung Hoi Ian pointed out that as the name suggests, sandwich class housing refers to the type of housing between HOS housing and private housing. Ung said that the government has concluded that sandwich class housing should have a number of fundamental characteristics, namely 1) its nature belongs to private housing, not public housing, 2) the size of its flats is bigger than HOS flats, and its facilities are better than HOS housing, 3) its price is higher than HOS flats but lower than private housing units, and 4) its flats can be sold in the private market a certain number of years after they have been bought.
Ung said that while the government has a “clear” definition of sandwich class housing in principle, it is aware that Macao’s civil society has different views about how to define the sandwich class so that the main point of the pubic consultation is to define the sandwich class – i.e. who should be covered by the government’s future sandwich class housing programme.
2 possible ‘sandwich class’ definitions
According to Ung, the government proposes two possible definitions as to who should be covered by sandwich class housing.
According to the first definition, sandwich class housing should cover local residents whose monthly income exceeds the maximum cap for the HOS flat applications, or those who are eligible to buy an HOS flat but are ranked at a lower priority position on the HOS points-based system – i.e. those having a lesser chance to buy an HOS flat. Ung said that while the system under the first definition would enable HOS flat applicants who get a lower score on the HOS points-based system list to apply for sandwich class housing, this would create the adverse situation in which some residents would apply for HOS flats and sandwich class housing units simultaneously.
According to the second definition, sandwich class housing should only cover local residents whose monthly income exceeds the maximum cap for HOS flat applications. Ung said that this system would clearly exclude all those who are eligible to apply for HOS flats from applying to buy sandwich class housing units, adding that, however, this system would deprive those who are ranked in a lower priority position on the HOS points-based system of the opportunity to buy an affordable flat.
According to Ung, the government also suggests two proposals on who would be eligible for sandwich class housing in line with their residency status. According to the first proposal, both the applicant and all his or her family members for a unit must be permanent residents. In the second proposal, while the applicant must be a permanent resident, only at least half of the family must be permanent residents.
According to Ung, the government proposes that the age limit for an applicant for sandwich class housing units should be the same as the current age limit for an HOS flat applicant, according to which an individual applicant must be aged at least 23, while the applicant must be aged at least 18 if he or she applies for an HOS flat with family members.
According to Ung, the government also proposes a minimum income cap, maximum income cap, and maximum asset cap for sandwich class housing applicants. Concerning the minimum income cap for sandwich class housing, the government proposes three options, namely 1) 20 per cent lower than the maximum income cap for HOS applicants, 2) 50 per cent lower than the HOS maximum income cap, or 3) the same as the HOS maximum income cap.
According to Ung, concerning the maximum income cap for sandwich class housing, the government proposes two options, namely 1) 20 per cent higher than the maximum income cap for HOS applicants, and 2) 10 per cent higher than the HOS maximum income cap.
Concerning the maximum asset cap for sandwich class housing, the government proposes two options, namely 1) 20 per cent higher than the maximum asset cap for HOS applicants, and 2) the same as the HOS maximum asset cap.
According to Ung, the government also proposes that the price of a sandwich class housing unit would be set at a certain discount rate from private housing units in the same area.
The government proposes that a “lucky draw” system or a points-based system could be adopted for the allocation of sandwich class housing units. Previously, a lucky draw system was adopted for HOS flat allocations, while a points-based system is currently adopted for HOS flat allocations.
Ung also said that the possible sandwich class housing programme aimed to help sandwich class residents buy an affordable flat, rather than promote property investment activities with the use of public resources, adding that therefore the government suggests that those who have bought a sandwich class housing unit from the government would not be allowed to sell it in the private market within a certain number of years. According to Ung, the government proposes two options on the matter, namely 1) a period of 16 years before they can sell their flats in the private market, and 2) a period of 8 to 10 years.
Ung also said that now was the right time to carry out a public consultation on the government’s sandwich class housing proposal, as the government has got sufficient land resources over the past several years through land reclamation and the repossession of undeveloped plots of land.
Housing Bureau (IH) Director Arnaldo Ernesto dos Santos said during the press conference that the construction of HOS projects and the future sandwich class housing projects would not compete with each other for the government’s land resources, as the government has earmarked sufficient land resources for its future HOS projects.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © Macau Photo Agency