The small-house policy is now becoming more like a tool for developers to grab land and build houses for sale rather than a policy for villagers to build their own houses.
Although every indigenous male villager has the right to build a small house, not all of them want to and even those who do may not be able to acquire a piece of land to make this possible.
In many cases, male villagers just sell their rights to build to developers.
This is especially common for those who do not live in Hong Kong. Moreover, land in a village zone is not evenly distributed among villagers. It could be owned by just a few landlords who would more likely co-operate with developers to build small houses on a commercial basis.
It seems that what is happening regarding small houses is known to everybody except the Lands Department, which is turning a blind eye to the real situation and approving applications for construction of small houses where the applicants have already assigned all their rights to other people or to developers.
There are even some lawyers who provide services for this transaction process. This is a widely practised phenomenon and it should not be seen as part of any rural tradition in the New Territories.
The department allows a male villager to build a small house that is not in his village. This causes a nuisance to these other communities as sometimes a single clan inhabits a village and another clan may not be welcome.
The problem is made worse when a plan for commercial developments comprising small houses originates from village "A", but the proposal is to locate them in village "B". This kind of development is often backed by powerful people and that makes it difficult to oppose.
The appetite of developers can never be satisfied. If the government does not act now, eventually all villages will be filled with blocks of small houses and a large proportion of them will not be there to satisfy the housing needs of indigenous villagers.
The rural infrastructure will not be able to cope and the beautiful landscape and tranquil rural environment will be irreversibly damaged.
The small-house policy has caused a lot of problems due to its commercial nature and the government's lack of control and scrutiny.
Officials must exercise tight control on commercial development of small houses.
T. Chang, Kwun Tong