No simple solution to flats crisis
Solving the housing problem has become a top priority for the Hong Kong SAR and its chief executive Leung Chun-ying. This was reflected in his policy address.
Some solutions suggested include increasing Hong Kong's land supply by reclamation, new town development and having more urban renewal projects.
However C. Y.'s determination alone may not be enough and there are groups opposed to his plans. For example, some people would rather protect the habitats of the Chinese white dolphins than help Hong Kong citizens. I accept this is an important environmental issue. Also, the government needs to look at the "screen-wall" effect from large apartment block developments and heritage issues such as preserving people's collective memories.
Hong Kong is a small city, but some readers might be surprised to learn the proportion of land that has already been developed.
Out of a total land area of 1,104 square kilometres, private housing only takes up 25 square kilometres, subsidised housing 16 square kilometres and rural settlements 35 square kilometres. How could so little developed land possibly be able to accommodate seven million people at affordable prices?
The policy address laid out 10 short- and medium-term measures, including the provision of more than 300 hectares of land for residential purposes and proceeding with North East New Territories New Development Areas plan; 181,800 housing units are to be built. The government will also investigate the possibility of developing Hung Shui Kiu, New Territories North, Yuen Long and Lantau in an effort to fully utilise our land resources.
When it comes to the supply of land and housing it is not just about planning and development. It involves the interplay of politics, economics and social values. The difficulty we now face is a result of flawed land and housing policies over many years. It is unrealistic to expect that a single policy address can turn things around. There is no perfect answer that will satisfy all stakeholders and the chief executive must make practical and tough decisions.
Our government has made its move. What remains now is for Hong Kong people to support it.
If C. Y. is unable to implement his proposed measures, the land we need to develop will not become available and there will be no property price stability.
The administration deserves our support for getting things started and pointing us in the right direction.
Dr Eugene Chan, chairman, the Association of Hong Kong Professionals