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  • Oct 2, 2014
  • Updated: 6:04pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong's small-house policy needs full review

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 3:07am

The government has not been specific on how much land is needed for the 470,000 flats it says must be built over the next decade to handle Hong Kong's anticipated growth. What it is certain about, though, is that there is not enough land in reserves and ways have to be found to obtain more. But any trip through the New Territories shows there is plenty of space for future development, so the matter is less one of supply than management. Reviewing the small-house policy is a crucial facet of formulating a planning strategy.

Authorities well know this, yet have been reluctant to broach what is a complicated matter. The 41-year-old administrative measure gives men of at least 18 years old who can trace their ancestors to villages at the time of the British occupation of the New Territories in 1898 the right to apply to build a three-storey house of up to 2,100 sq ft. The land is free if it is in an ancestral village, or can be bought from government reserves elsewhere for about two-thirds of the market value. Problems abound with the scheme, the most pressing being that it is unsustainable. There is not enough land to meet demand.

That could explain government tardiness in processing the more than 10,000 outstanding applications. Or it could be because the policy is viewed by some as discriminatory to city residents; a violation of sexual discrimination laws protecting the rights of women; or little more than a windfall property deal. Nor does the reasoning for its introduction, a temporary measure to address a housing shortage for indigenous villagers, still apply. At a time when Hong Kong needs to plan for future development by improving its public and private housing stock, persisting with an outdated approach that does not make the best use of land makes no sense.

Pledges by authorities since 1995 to review the policy have been left hanging. The latest reiterations by Leung Chun-ying while campaigning to be chief executive - and Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor shortly before she became chief secretary - have yet to be followed up. Lau Wong-fat, chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk, the statutory advisory body representing indigenous villagers, recently made that plain. His interests are his constituents, but by raising the matter he has reinvigorated debate. The Leung administration should heed his call. There could be opposition, legalities and cultural and social challenges, but if Hong Kong is to grow and prosper, there also has to be the political will to move the discussion forward.


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All law can be revoked or amended. Institution such as court and legislation are equipped to do so. The ding house law if it is designated as law is no exception. The focus really is that why such resistance against even to have the policy reviewed which was enacted since some 40 years ago. What consequences there are for Hong Kong for the past and current administration from refraining doing so? Let the people understand.
Abolishing the Small House Policy will lead to compensation claims from all who believe to have a ding right. To avoid this, Government so far relied on containment of the Small House Policy to v-zones boundaries - resulting in urban aberrations with parallels to the former Kowloon Walled City. Sadly, Government is allowing the cancer of small house developments to spread under pressure from the Heung Yee ****: Allowing houses outside v-zones, designating new v-zones on the enclaves of private land surrounded by country parks despite promises to protect these after the Tai Long Sai Wan incident in 2010, and designating v-zones within the former frontier closed area - an ecological treasure left to us by Hong Kong's political legacy.
Article 40 of the Basic Law reads: The lawful traditional rights and interests of the indigenous inhabitants of the "New Territories" shall be protected by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The Heung Yee **** managed to get this included and claims that it protects the Small House Policy which is utter nonsense.
Lawful traditional rights: Before the British came, they had no rights. The British gave them land and property rights.

They have a traditional right to occupy, repair or renovate a house and farm etc. The SHP merely administratively ENHANCES that right and is NOT a right in itself
Lawful traditional interests: farming, fishing, ceremonies, festivals etc
Indigenous: originating in and characteristic of a particular region or country i.e. the NT
Inhabitants: a person
who inhabits a place, especially as a permanent resident i.e. lives in the NT and not Glasgow or Brisbane
So can the government explain why it is doing nothing about a policy which is slowly but surely destroying the village enclaves within our country parks and rural areas of the NT and is continuing to discriminate against all HK females over the age of 18 and 95% of their male counterparts, most of whom are forced to remain single and live with their parents into their 30s? Utter lunacy.


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