Promise of an extra 295 hectares fails to impress developers
Gary Cheung and Ernest Kong
'Mr Land' Michael Suen Ming-yeung rolled out a further 295 hectares yesterday in his campaign to convince the property market there is no shortage of the precious commodity.
The housing chief said the sites would become available over the next five years in addition to the 99 hectares he has already said are readily available.
'There is no need for the market to worry about an undersupply of land in the coming years,' he said.
'The government will monitor the flat supply situation closely and will provide sufficient land for housing development in a timely manner.'
Surveyors said the 295 hectares, some yet to be cleared and levelled, could provide about 250,000 flats - enough to meet demand for more than 10 years.
But developers and real estate agents said the key was not the amount of land available but how and when the government disposed of it.
Mr Suen did not specify the location of the sites. But he did say that some were on Hong Kong Island, where there has been rampant speculation in luxury apartments.
The secretary for housing, planning and lands was speaking to legislators two days after the government revealed it had 99 hectares of land readily available for housing development - 10 times the 10.5 hectares up for grabs on the application list this financial year.
Of the 99 hectares, 71.6 per cent is in the New Territories and outlying islands, while 21.4 per cent is in Kowloon and 7 per cent on Hong Kong Island.
His comments followed expressions of concern by developers and analysts that there could be a housing shortage by 2006. Mr Suen said the sites would be disposed in accordance with market conditions on a yearly basis.
'We will review the amount of supply every year in the next five years,' he said.
Midland Realty chief analyst Buggle Lau Ka-fai said the figures gave only a limited indication of the supply.
'It's how and when the government will sell its land that matters, not how much land it has,' Mr Lau said.
Ricacorp Properties managing director Ivan Ho said the government probably wanted to cool down the market after the record-breaking land auction earlier this month.
'A sufficient supply of land will discourage irrational buying activities in the property market,' Mr Ho said.
Wharf (Holdings) assistant director Ricky Wong Kwong-yiu said the new figures on supply would not affect the company's sales schedule as the government had not given any detailed timetable for its disposal.