Special Report – Housing to the forefront 

As the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic takes centre stage, other matters which took the back seat are likely to come to the limelight.  

MB December 2020 Special Report | Ho Iat Seng – Year 1

In his first speech as Chief Executive (CE), before Xi Jinping, Ho Iat Seng promised “to speed up urban planning, the construction of public housing, improve traffic, strengthen environmental protection and boost the development of urban renewal and the project of a smart city.” 

A few days later, in the New Year’s speech, Ho Iat Seng added: Macau will meet in 2020 “great opportunities for development and face all kinds of challenges.” 

On that occasion, the CE highlighted in particular “the promotion of adequate diversification of the economy”, “the development of new industries and new types of business”, as well as “the creation of new supports for economic growth” and “optimization of actions aimed at the well-being of the population and for the effective improvement” of the quality of life. 

Four months later, during the presentation of its first Policy Address, and with the pandemic situation already improving, the CE – in addition to highlighting the Public Administration reform – stated: “The resolution of the difficulties inherent in the acquisition of housing, daily mobility, access to healthcare and the solution to the floods in the Porto interior area remain the most pressing aspirations of the population.” 

When he presented a list of measures “to promote post-pandemic economic recovery,” Ho put in the first place “adequately increase public investment,” detailing: “expedite construction of urban transport, public housing and government facilities.” 

“The Government will expedite the construction of public housing, to ensure the basic living conditions of local residents; and accelerate the approval and construction of public housing to increase supply. We will increase the supply of Home-Ownership Scheme housing in response to the actual demand, and proceed with the construction of public housing in New Urban Zone Area A,” was the promise. 

Ho Iat Seng underscored: after New Urban Zone Area A, where construction of 3,011 Home-Ownership Scheme housing units on lots B4, B9, and B10 has commenced, appear in the first line of priorities Venceslau de Morais, Toi San and Mong Ha public housing projects, “while work on the design for the first phase of the public housing project on Wai Long Avenue has also commenced.” 

The head of Government also promised to develop “a reasonable home ownership ladder in response to the housing needs of residents at different income levels, especially the ‘sandwich class’ and young people” and begin special law drafting work after a public consultation on the specifications of housing for the ‘sandwich class’. “The housing scheme for senior citizens is now in its research and design stage, and the process of drafting the related law has commenced the law.” 

Ieong, Meng U 

“Only marginal adjust” 

“Real estate developers are always core members in the coalitions that the CE needs in the local governance.  So I expect Macau’s housing policy would only have a marginal adjustment. As Macau’s political system remains unchanged, the CE needs to take care of the real estate developers’ interests in one hand. One the other hand, there are several issues are more pressing in the CE’s agenda at least in the first tenure as the renewal of the gambling licenses, regional cooperation in the Greater Bay Area and I expect once the 14th Five-Year Plan, Macau is likely to adopt some of the functions which previously served by Hong Kong regarding to the latter’s situation. These tasks should occupy most of the attention from the CE.” 

Sonny Lo 

“A legacy to Ho Iat Seng” 

“The housing reforms as promised by Chui Sai On are a legacy to Ho Iat Seng, whose reform process is however hampered by Covid-19 and whose recent emphasis on the need to accelerate the construction of housing units is absolutely understandable. Such focus is in line with Ho’s emphasis on the improvement of the people’s livelihood — a continuity of Ho’s administration compared with both Edmund Ho’s and Chui Sai On’s approaches.”  

José Álvares 

“The difficult task of defining the ‘sandwich class’” 

“Singapore has consistently ranked among the happiest places to live in Asia and it also has one of highest home ownership rates in the developed world, standing above 90 per cent. Having a home lifts a burden on one’s shoulder and generates a sense of belonging to a given community. The situation in Macau in that regard isn’t bad, the issue is the not so distant future of the next generation buying their homes – with an average home costing MOP5 million and a median monthly salary of MOP20,000, Ho Iat Seng is spot on when taking this matter as a priority. H.I.S.’ government has an expanded land bank and is already taking action when it comes to housing – for instance, H.I.S. has now begun the difficult task of defining the ‘sandwich class’ (meaning, he intends to go beyond the current people applying or eligible to apply for public housing).” 

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