Housing targets may not be met
Hampered by a policy error almost a decade ago, the government may have difficulty providing enough land to meet its housing targets over the next 10 years, the development minister admitted.
'We have three five-year plans for land supply. We will be able to produce enough land in the coming five years ... but for the second five years, it will be a big challenge,' Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told lawmakers yesterday.
Although six ways of increasing land supply were outlined in the final policy address by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Wednesday, the government cannot give a clear timetable for putting them into practice. Lam said the land for the first five-year plan for sites on which 40,000 homes - private and public - could be built would come from Tseung Kwan O, Kai Tak, West Rail stations, other MTR stations, former industrial land, and sites zoned for government facilities, such as former civil servants' quarters and disused market buildings.
But the next five years would see more uncertainty because of a government mistake in calling a halt to all its housing measures in 2002.
'The chief executive has earlier admitted [the mistake], which affected land planning and infrastructure work,' Lam said. 'No such work was started when there was no specific need for land. But now the government direction is to set up a land reserve, so even if there is no specific [requirement] we will do the infrastructure work and save the sites for future use.' The reserve would be unaffected by economic cycles and demand, she said.
This middle-term supply will rely on some of the six approaches in the policy address, including rezoning 15 plots of green-belt land owned by the government, amounting to 50 hectares, and resumption of 150 hectares of abandoned farm land and storage sites. Other measures include reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, rezoning 60 hectares of industrial land, use of rock caverns, and using land near unpopular utilities such as sewage plants that were formerly deemed unsuitable for flats.
The third five-year plan, involving planned new towns in the northeastern New Territories and Tung Chung, would be easier Lam said.
Meanwhile, she said the plan to sell part of Government Hill in Central would continue, despite opposition from conservation groups.
She said revisions to the plan had been made, including reducing the size of a proposed shopping mall and enlarging a public garden.
The west wing of the Central Government Offices, relocated to the Tamar site in Admiralty, will be demolished and the site sold to private developers by tender, for office development. Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan, said the revised plan failed to meet the public's desire to preserve the entire hill.
The number of storeys proposed by the government for the new office tower on the west wing site of the Central Government Offices