Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has again ruled out scrapping property-market cooling measures for the moment despite homes prices being on the wane.

It's too early to do so, and the

government will continue to keep land supply stable, he told a press conference on Wednesday shortly after delivering his ninth budget.

"It's still too early to decide whether to waive these cooling measures," he said."The government will maintain stable land supply as the demand for housing is still massive in Hong Kong."

Citing rising interest rates and increased homes supply in the mid-term, the financial chief warned that the public should carefully assess the "potential risks", in particular, the impact of interest-rate hikes on their mortgages, and their own financial position when deciding whether or not to buy a home.

The government slapped a series of measures in early 2013, including higher stamp duties and curbs on housing loans, in a bid to cool a runaway property market.

Under the 2016-17 Budget, 280,000 public-housing units will come on stream in the next decade, while 29 residential sites providing for 19,000 private apartments will be up for grabs this fiscal year, compared with lands for 20,000 private units in the past year.

With other residential land sources, including railway and urban renewal projects, as well as private-sector redevelopment, the potential land supply for the coming fiscal year is expected to provide a total of 29,000 private apartments.

"The land supply program is in line with the previous plan to provide 48,000 housing units a year. It's not massive and wouldn't add pressure to the local homes market," said Alva To, Greater China head of consulting at DTZ/Cushman & Wakefield, adding that the real challenge is rather external.

Yiu Chung-yim, associate professor at the Department of Geography and Resource Management of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, agreed that the government wouldn't be under pressure to cut land supply unless the market deteriorates seriously. "The current supply is merely above the historic lows."

However, To said land prices are on the way down given that property prices have shrunk.

"Land prices usually follow the homes market trend. Given that real-estate prices have fallen 9 percent so far, which is quite significant, we expect land prices to follow suit and come down by more than 10 percent this year. The authorities need to lower land valuation for upcoming auctions to match market expectations," he said.

According to Tsang, Hong Kong's property market has been quieter since mid-2015, and prices have shed 9 percent in the four consecutive months since October.

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(HK Edition 02/25/2016 page2)

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