Bad town planning is to blame, expert says
Dr Law Chi-kwong does not see high prices in Tin Shui Wai as the result of a monopoly. He sees them as a side-effect of flawed town planning.
'Town planners of Tin Shui Wai lacked knowledge in human interaction,' said Law, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong's Department of Social Work and Social Administration.
'The estates stand apart from each other, which means they have a more spacious and comfortable environment. Yet, with little human interaction between the estates, the district cannot prosper.
'Every public housing estate in Tin Shui Wai is made to be a self-contained community with its own shopping mall. There is no competition between the malls in different estates. The prices are not competitive so people tend to travel to downtown Yuen Long to shop. With less business, shops in Tin Shui Wai have to bear lower turnover and higher wastage rates, which has led to higher operating costs and so higher sale prices for customers.'
Similar cases have happened elsewhere in Hong Kong. For example, residents of Sau Mao Ping public housing estate often choose not to shop at the local mall but rather travel to Kwun Tong's wet market with its wider variety of choices and lower prices.
'The poverty in Tin Shui Wai also adds to the tragedy,' Law said. 'The area's public housing ratio is too high. Every district should have a reasonable mix of private and public housing. Town planners need to be aware of the situation, otherwise a similar situation will play out in newly developed districts such as Kwun Tong, Sung Kiu and Hung Shui Kiu.'
Many residents in Tin Shui Wai would want to see a local hawker's market set up to create employment and allow residents to shop at more affordable prices. Yet Law questioned the practicality of the project. 'A flea market was opened in Wong Tai Sin a few years ago under the same concept,' he said. 'It ruined the business of nearby shopping malls. That is not fair to their tenants.'
Instead, Law recommends that Tin Shui Wai take advantage of the nearby tourist attraction Lao Fo Shan.
'A road from Tin Shui Wai to Lo Fo Shan is being widened. The many container sites along the way could be used for shops and restaurants to bring jobs to Tin Shui Wai,' he said.
Law thinks The Link contributes to Tin Shui Wai by providing jobs.
'The Link is a more efficient mall operator than the Housing Authority. It has increased the floor space in malls for shops. These benefits should not be overlooked,' he said.