Hong Kong leader warns of talent drain over housing

Hong Kong's leader on Thursday said the Chinese city needed to boost its housing supply and create more living space or the "best and the brightest" talents of the next generation would go elsewhere.

One of the world's most densely populated cities, Hong Kong has seen its property prices skyrocket in recent years after an influx of mainland Chinese buyers, pushing home ownership beyond the reach of many of its seven million people.

Leung Chun-ying said the issue needed to be addressed urgently or the space-starved city, which already competes with Singapore to be Asia's economic powerhouse, will lose its competitiveness.

"If we cannot, within the phase of the next two or three decades, generally increase the space in Hong Kong, the best and the brightest of the next generation will leave us," the 58-year-old former property consultant told the city's Foreign Correspondents' Club.

"We would have lost our competitiveness in attracting and retaining overseas talents, (and) also our competitiveness in retaining our local talents.

"We need to have adequate land supply not just to meet new demand... but also to give people more elbow room in their living space and also in their work space."

Leung has vowed to boost land supply and make housing more affordable since he took office in July after he was elected by a 1,200-strong committee packed with pro-Beijing elites.

And the government in October slapped new taxes on foreign buyers and raised stamp duty on resale within three years, in a bid to cool the overheated housing market.

The leader said his government will continue to deepen ties with Beijing, despite opinion polls earlier this year showing anti-Beijing sentiments had surged to a new high since the former British colony was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997.

Leung said he has rolled out a slew of measures to tackle the disenchantment among Hong Kongers toward mainlanders, including a decision to stop mainland Chinese women from giving birth in the semi-autonomous city.

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