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  • Dec 22, 2014
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CommentInsight & Opinion

HK should pursue new towns, but with common good in mind

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2012, 3:11am

The government consultation on plans for three new towns in the northeastern New Territories was orderly and reasoned when it began four years ago. Hong Kong's limited area necessitated development near border areas and the benefits were obvious. But there has since been a shift in sentiment towards mainland integration, and a weekend forum to allay the concerns of those affected was chaotic, with tempers high. This is not a matter like national education that authorities can backtrack on, though. Our city's future growth depends on such projects going ahead.

Unlike national education, developing new towns is complicated, with many interest groups, including villagers, property developers and farmers. Each group is divided in its support. Among the villagers, for example, there are those who would gladly sell their land, others who would move out only if the terms are right and a hardcore who have no intention of budging. Among developers, those with plots want to be compensated not just for land at market value, but at lost investment potential. Then there are those not directly affected, who decry the perceived "mainlandisation" of Hong Kong.

Meeting the demands of all involved is not possible. This is a major project, involving 10,000 residents and almost 800 hectares of land. The aim is to build 53,800 homes for 152,000 people. At least HK$40 billion in public funds will be needed to purchase the land. Development secretary Paul Chan Mo-po was right to suggest that, given the concerns, a percentage of the flats have to be set aside just for Hong Kong buyers.

Sensitivities have to be taken into account. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying sparked fears in June when he said people from the mainland should be able to enter Hong Kong's border areas - near the proposed new towns - without a visa. The government's caving in to pressure against multi-entry visitor permits for an extra 4.1 million Shenzhen residents shows its readiness to listen. That means allowing all sides to air views, giving them careful consideration, weighing options, being transparent and going forward without unreasonable haste.

But there can be no turning back. Our population is increasing and we need more space for businesses and to innovate. The nine new towns developed since the late 1960s prove what can be achieved; Sha Tin, for one, has been a resounding success. The guiding development principle has to be the common good - and of this project, there is no doubt.

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keresearch
Claptrap.These towns were proposed in the late 1990's based on population forecasts of over 10 million by 2030. Our latest population forecast for 2041 is 8.2 million.
Camel
With more homes in the market, the costs of buying an apartment will decrease enormous. Developers currently building houses according to quantity than qualtity. Rooms are not bigger than a broom cabinet. No wonder the HKners are narrow minded as in their tiny homes they don't have much space to move, to think and not much air to breath. And quality of life? Not in those tiny cubicles. A tiny life, with tiny ideas, restricted minds and imagination and short views for the future. That's life in HK. (don't ask me who is to blame for this).
For this you have to pay an average 8k a sqft. With such money you easily could buy in Europe a 3 storey house with a big garden to raise horses and a swimming pool on the roof and in the backyard. Familiies in HK have to have double high income to pay off those tiny properties not only in one lifetime. To stop this nonsense and crazy prices the government really should built more houses and flood the market with more land developments, to lower down the prices to a decent level for HK. Also the with the development of more lands, the developers for properties would start to think more on quality than on quantity. HK has still much land available to develop but it seems that certain groups in the society do not want this as they have much to lose if property prices fall.
SpeakFreely
One more point. Do you know who benefit most when the GDP pie is getting bigger but not the avg GDP increase? Avg GDP does not improve means we average people has no gain in economic benefit and probably poorer life as cost goes up. But if total GDP pie increases both developers and government benefit most as housing always accounts for a big percentage of our income. Developers get more money by selling more houses and government benefits more by selling land and resales of houses via stamp duty. No brainier? Why would developers and governments want to be against that we we have more people, via increase population, to work for them to make them richer? No brainier ? That is why they plan on keep increasing the population.
Can they increase the GDP by increase the average GDP ? Yes by theory but it will increase investment on education etc. and is not that simple as simply increase the population. No brainer?
SpeakFreely
I missed the editor's last paragraphs. Growing the economy is not restricted to growing the population. In the past 10 to 15 years, our GDP probably grew along with increased population but not the average GDP. Consequently we are living poorer than before as cost is up and our avg GDP is not up and we have more people with more pollution. Is this our preferred life? If you look at how well singapore grew its GDP surpass hk and average people have a much bigger home and cleaner air than hk people that probably is a better example to learn from...
SpeakFreely
Did anyone ask why we want to have 8m or 9m population given hk is a such a tiny place? If we want to grow our economy we can grow GDP per capital rather than by growing the number of people. We need to look at the situation as a whole not in an ad hoc basis like this...
I'm not against a new town, but what's next?
megafun
The nine new towns developed were at enormous environmental / ecological costs, which we ought to have learn by now. Growth needs to be managed and citing population growth is complicated at best, since locals are not giving birth at any "growth" rate! I. personally do not have any friend, under 40, with more than two kids! Therefore, accusations of pampering to mainlanders' needs are valid.
Moreover, as pointed out by Albert Lai, of Professional Commons, there are 800 Ha of spoilt land which can be improved / developed at no damage to existing farmlands or green fields.
So, even if a new town is to be built our Government ought to be able to plan better. Afterall, these civil servants are paid more than enough!

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