Land supply rises to meet housing target

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am


Land supply is being increased to meet the ambitious housing target set by chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, who takes office in two weeks.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, both tipped to stay in the new administration as No 2 and No 3, have been working to build up the city's land bank.

Tsang eased concerns over shortages at the weekend when he released details of land to be made available in the short to long term. Meanwhile, Lam has altered her approach to developing three areas in the New Territories.

And yesterday, the Development Bureau said it had dropped the public-private partnership approach in developing Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and nearby Ping Che. Instead, it will adopt the traditional approach in which the government resumes private land to be sold later to developers to ensure future housing projects can be delivered faster.

To minimise public opposition and to remove as many stumbling blocks as possible, Tsang and Lam both made a number of compromises to residents, conservationists and people awaiting public flats.

For example, new developments will not tramp on old villages and 32 hectares of land has been reserved in Kwu Tung for public housing that will resettle as many as 1,700 households living in squatter settlements to be demolished. The bureau also scrapped a proposed low-rise residential development in Long Yuen, near Sheung Shui, a popular wetland where conservationists have recorded more than 210 bird species. The 37-hectare wetland will be conserved as an eco-park.

Leung has set a goal of providing more affordable flats by erecting some 35,000 public housing flats a year. The original number of public flats proposed in the areas has been increased by 21 per cent from 18,860 units to 23,000 units. Sites will also be reserved for subsidised housing.

If successful, the areas will provide 53,800 new flats in the next 10 to 20 years, of which 43 per cent will be public housing.

Nonetheless, the process of building up the city's land bank is likely to be an uphill battle. The estimated price tag for the private land that makes up 57 per cent of the 530 hectares to be developed in the three areas is at least HK$40 billion - twice the estimated cost of the arts hub in West Kowloon.

The moves could upset big developers like Henderson Land Development and Sun Hung Kai Properties, which own vast tracts of agricultural land in the affected areas. The existing compensation practice of the government's development model will not take into account the site's future development potential but be based on the value of the agricultural land or the number of squatter houses on it.

Government agencies such as the Urban Renewal Authority are doing their best to realise targets. In a pilot scheme to be launched this year to release more land by redeveloping industrial buildings, the authority is considering a lower threshold for resuming property interests. Unlike redeveloping residential buildings, in which the authority will resume the whole site by law after acquiring 70 to 80 per cent of interests, it is understood that the authority is considering lowering thresholds to about 50 per cent - in cases where redevelopments have less impact on livelihoods - to speed up the projects.


Land for future housing needs

Industrial sites: 30 hectares (21,090 flats)

Green belt: 50ha

Agricultural land: 150ha

Sites in Yuen Long and Northern District: 150ha

Redevelopment: 30ha

New sites in New Territories including Kwu Tong North, Fanling North, Ping Che and Hung Shui Kiu: 1,320ha (53,800 flats)

Kai Tak: 320ha (29,000 flats)

Tung Chung new town: 250ha

Quarry sites on Anderson Road, Lamma, Lam Tei and Cha Kwo Ling: 224ha

Sites along the West Rail project - Kam Sheung Road and Pat Heung stations: 138ha (8,700 flats)

Being studied

Reclaimed land outside Victoria Harbour, rock caverns and government sites

Source: Development Bureau