Hong Kong home prices reach record high after 8-month ascent

Dec 30 (Reuters) - Hong Kong home prices struck record highs in November, surpassing the previous peak set in September 2015 after climbing for eight consecutive months, government data released on Friday showed.

Private home prices in November rose by 0.79 percent from a month ago, to stand just 0.16 percent above the old peak, according to provisional data compiled by the Rating and Valuation Department. The Asian financial hub is one of the least affordable cities in the world, with homes costing an average of HK$10,700 (US$1,380) per square foot, according to data compiled by property agent Midland Realty.

Flats in more popular districts average over HK$20,000 (US$2,580) per square foot.

Making housing more affordable has been one of the top priorities of the current administration under embattled leader Leung Chun-ying, who took the helm four years ago and is set to step down after his term completes in June.

Hong Kong citizens’ monthly median wage stands at HK$15,500 (US$1,998), according to government data released in March.

The government raised stamp duties to 15 percent of the transaction value early November, exempting first time buyers, in an effort to cool an overheated property market.

Industry insiders say the higher stamp duty has done little to suppress home prices.

The demand for primary homes remains high in Hong Kong, said Knight Frank’s Senior Director Thomas Lam, adding mainland Chinese buyers continue to fuel prices for top-tier luxury apartments.

Property consultants, including JLL and Savills, expect residential prices to increase by up to 5 percent in the upcoming year.

Reporting by Venus Wu and Joy Leung; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore