Hong Kong’s leader on Wednesday delivered his last annual policy address before stepping down, raising longstanding problems such as high property prices and stalled political reform but provided no substantial new measures to tackle them.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took office in 2012 pledging to make housing more affordable and to bring greater democracy to the city of 7.2 million, issues that had also stymied his predecessors.
Home prices have bucked repeated cooling measures, including a hefty new sales tax in November, to rise ever higher, putting prices on a par with those in New York and London.
Political reforms have stalled amid growing worries among democracy activists about mainland interference that they see threatening the city’s autonomy.
Demands for full democratic city elections triggered Hong Kong’s most tumultuous protests for decades in late 2014, but Beijing refused to make any concessions.
Leung said surging property prices posed the “gravest potential hazard” to society and he reiterated a need to increase the supply of land, including through reclamation and expanding new towns.
“If the government and the community do not resolve to expedite the identification of land for housing production, the housing problem will remain a tough nut to crack,” Leung said.
Only 7% of city land is zoned for housing and the average price per square foot of city flats is about HK$10,700 (US$1,380), spawning a boom in ever smaller “mini” flats no bigger than a car parking space.
In the next decade, 460,000 flats are expected to be built, he said.