Jul 08, 2013

    Protesters want HK property curbs to go

    THOUSANDS of real-estate agents and industry workers marched in Hong Kong yesterday, calling on the government to lift measures it has put in place to curb home prices in the world's most expensive housing market.

    "It's affecting everybody, not just the agents, it's affecting the economy," said Mr Denys Kwan, a protest organiser and former president of the Society of Hong Kong Real Estate Agents. "Stop it, stop it right now."

    Property transactions in the city plunged to a two-decade low in the second quarter, in response to a doubling of stamp duties on buyers and sellers, and tightened regulations on marketing material of new apartments.

    About a third of Hong Kong's property agents may lose their jobs over the next year if the government persists with its real-estate curbs, according to Midland Holdings, the city's only listed realtor.

    Home prices have more than doubled since early 2009 on an influx of mainland Chinese buyers, near record-low interest rates and a lack of new supply, prompting the government to introduce a raft of measures to quell concerns of an asset bubble.

    Since taking over last July, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying has imposed extra taxes on non-resident home buyers, doubled the stamp duty on all property transactions, raised minimum mortgage down-payment requirements, and sped up the approval process of new home-sales permits for developers.

    As many as 5,500 people participated in the protest, the Hong Kong Police Force said.

    Mr Kwan said 23,000 people marched.