Hong Kong’s biggest property developers have denied coming under pressure from mainland Chinese officials to solve the city’s housing woes, following reports that Beijing is losing patience with the industry.
The Real Estate Developers Association also stressed that its members, which include Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land Development and CK Asset Holdings, were continuing to support the Hong Kong government in boosting housing supply and improving living standards.
The association’s executive committee, comprising more than a dozen top industry figures, released a statement on Friday following a regular meeting that lasted more than 1½ hours.
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“The [executive committee] discussed a foreign media report about mainland officials expressing concern over Hong Kong’s housing problems,” the statement read.
“The committee members clarify that they have never heard of such news, nor has the association.”
It added the association had over the years worked with the government and across wider society to tackle issues relating to housing supply, the economy and people’s livelihoods. Members would “definitely continue to dedicate their full support” to the government in these areas, the statement added.
Last Friday, Reuters reported that Beijing officials had told a number of property tycoons in a closed-door meeting to throw their resources and influence behind central government efforts to ease the city’s housing problems.
They were quoted as saying “the rules of the games have changed” and that Beijing would no longer tolerate “monopoly behaviour”. The report did not specify when the meeting was held.
Asked whether the report was dialling up the pressure on developers, Louis Loong, secretary general of the association, said: “We haven’t heard of that before, so I cannot see any pressure at the moment.”
Attendees at Friday’s meeting included: Adam Kwok Kai-fai, executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties; Stewart Leung Chi-kin, chairman of the association’s executive committee; David Choi Wun-hing, Chinachem’s chief executive officer; Victor Tin, group associate director at Sino Land; Ricky Wong Kwong-yiu, director of Wheelock and Company; Augustine Wong Ho-ming, executive director of Henderson Land Development; Lam Ho-yi, senior vice-president of Lai Sun Group; and Abraham Razack, the legislator representing the real estate and construction sector.
CK Asset Holdings and New World Development also sent delegates.
A source familiar with the association told the Post that the members present “unanimously agreed” with the statement, adding that developers had supported government policy, such as “the drive to build transitional housing for those in the long wait for public [flats]”.
The source said the association would wait for city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s policy address on October 6 before offering new ideas to tackle the housing crisis.
Hong Kong’s stock market was rattled on Monday following news that local developers were under pressure. The Hang Seng Property subindex tumbled 6.7 per cent, its lowest level in more than five years, while shares in Henderson Land, Sun Hung Kai and New World Development each plunged by at least 10 per cent.
On Tuesday, Lam said developers had become more cooperative of late, noting that they had lent half of the land being used to provide 15,000 transitional homes by 2023.
Since 2019, the city’s developers have been blamed for contributing to the housing crunch, with state mouthpieces criticising them for hoarding land.
The relationship between local developers and Beijing has come under greater scrutiny since the central government’s overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system earlier this year, with the changes drastically diluting tycoons’ influence in the city’s leadership race.
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