Urban renewal, done properly, can make good use of serviced land in old districts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 June, 2011, 12:00am


I echo the view of David Akers-Jones, former secretary for the New Territories, on land supply for housing in Hong Kong ('HK has acres of land for development', June 22).

Another ready source of supply would be from a rethink of urban renewal efforts in older districts. A large number of buildings in these districts, like Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok, are way past their 'sell by' dates. Except for the ground floor spaces, which are treasured by the retail sector, the buildings mostly house the less privileged members of our society. Media reports say many of these dwellings are badly maintained and are often fire traps for residents.

These districts have the advantages of existing infrastructure and close proximity to commercial areas. Less building of new transport facilities and shorter travelling distances can contribute towards a greener city. In contrast, massive reclamation projects and construction on virgin land not only harm the coasts and natural habitats of marine life but can damage the environment from which landfill materials are sourced.

Before anyone starts crying 'special privileges for private developers', may I advocate that the government start thinking out of the box and establish an urban renewal body comprising all relevant stakeholders, private and public. With all parties agreeing to achieve a non-partisan and fair, comprehensive objective, the housing problem can be, if not eradicated overnight, at least vastly reduced.

It is about time that drastic measures not yet tried be taken before society becomes more splintered and segregated.

T.C. Chu, Save Our Shorelines