Leung reveals views on housing
The government should consider reclamation instead of encroaching on green areas in its quest for more land to build on, the chief executive candidate Leung Chun-ying told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview.
Country parks should not be touched, nor should the harbour, said Leung, who also pledged to review the New Territories small-house policy if elected.
'I don't think we should reclaim land in the harbour.
'But [reclamation] outside the harbour is advantageous.'
He said Hong Kong had an urgent need to build up a land reserve.
He said reclamation was more feasible than other solutions because reclaimed sites were accessible, with infrastructure readily available.
Leung was commenting on recent proposals raised by the government to increase land resources. Two proposals - reclamation and converting green belt areas on the urban fringes into housing sites - have drawn controversy. The Planning Department is looking at using 50 hectares of green belt owned by the government in the first phase.
But Leung has reservations about developing green belt, which has a presumption against development under existing planning guidelines.
'I attach great importance to green belt zones, he said. 'They should be protected from development as far as possible.'
He said the process of converting land for development took time.
'We must have a land reserve to address imbalanced supply and demand and to respond to market needs in a timely way,' he said.
A founder of the Countryside Foundation, set up early this year to protect natural and cultural heritage, Leung ruled out allowing developments to encroach on country parks. He said there was abundant undeveloped land outside the parks, accounting for 37 per cent of the whole territory. Developed land accounts for 23 per cent of Hong Kong's land.
Asked why the government had not already formed a land bank despite his influential role as Executive Council convenor, he said: 'My personal view as an Exco member has been clear. As to why the government and the council did not do it, it's not appropriate for me to comment.'
Leung also pledged to deal with another daunting problem - the controversial small-house policy - which gives male indigenous villagers the right to build a three-storey house on a 700 sq ft footprint. He criticised the policy as an inappropriate use of land resources. 'This problem should be settled,' he said. 'At least solutions should be raised and explored in my tenure if I'm elected.'
Leung declined to disclose options being explored, although he has had discussions with representatives from the New Territories.
His rival for the position of Hong Kong chief executive, former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, has suggested extending the height limit of a village house to between six and nine storeys. But Leung, a professional surveyor, said the idea was not workable on a 700 sq ft site.
Tang has suggested increasing the supply of public flats from 15,000 to 20,000 a year, but Leung said the government should instead build more in the first year of its five-year plan, to shorten the queue for public housing and lower the rents of private flats.
The government plans to build 75,000 public flats in the next five years, an average of 15,000 units per year. But Leung said that, without increasing the total supply over the five years, the first-year provision could be increased to 35,000 flats.
'The queue for public housing is too long, so the demand for subdivided [private] flats already exceeds the supply,' he said.