Ex-military sites in HK earmarked for flats as land supply is tackled

In an attempt to meet housing targets, sites are being considered for rezoning to residential use

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 1:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 1:11am

Land supply will be one of the vitally important topics in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's blueprint for future development when he delivers his second policy speech at the Legislative Council tomorrow.

While Leung's administration is still struggling to meet his annual housing target of 20,000 flats per year, the government has been looking at a number of options, such as rezoning land from country parks, reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, and a change of use for existing industrial, government and agricultural land.

Reclamation and rezoning land from country parks are strongly opposed by environmentalists.

Leung is in a bit of a quandary as flat prices hit a peak in March and climbed 2 per cent last year, making it more difficult for people to buy their own homes.

Leung has a long way to go if he wants flat prices to fall to a reasonable level.

To improve land supply, the planning department last week proposed rezoning 15 sites, which will yield a total of 7.3 million square feet for housing projects. The area, about the size of Victoria Park, is mostly underused green areas and undeveloped government land.

Under the proposal, the 15 sites, most of them zoned as green belt or for government, institutional or community use, will provide space for 10,812 flats. Of the total, 7,972 of them are private flats and 2,840 are public units.

Reclamation and rezoning land from country parks are strongly opposed

Eleven of the sites will be allocated for private housing developments while the remaining four sites will become public housing projects.

Besides rezoning them for residential use, the government has proposed raising the plot ratio of five sites, from the original 1.3 times to 3.6 times, to allow higher density development.

Among the 15 sites, three closed military bases in the Tuen Mun area are next to each other.

A 510,000 sq ft site, the former Perowne Barracks near So Kwun Wat, is the largest, potentially providing space for 2,950 private homes.

Perowne Barracks is a former British facility closed in 1994 following the drawdown of the military before the handover.

The other two former military bases - at lower So Kwun Wat and Gordon Hard - will provide a combined 350 units.

With a plot ratio of four times, the Perowne Barracks site will yield an estimated gross floor area of 2.06 million sq ft.

If approved for rezoning, the 11 plots earmarked for private housing projects will be included in the next fiscal year's land sale programme starting from April.

With most of the sites located close to the waterfront, the most likely scenario is for Hong Kong's developers to compete aggressively against each other in bidding up land prices, especially given their credentials in coming up with packages of upmarket residential projects.

They can easily apply this expertise and cash in a big way, particularly projects to be built in Perowne Barracks close to Harrow International School, an institution highly sought-after by cash-rich mainland parents for the education of their children.