Case for building in country parks

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 1:13am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 1:13am


The idea of building housing in country parks is clearly an emotive issue for Hongkongers, but given the seriousness of the city's housing shortage it is necessary to look at the pros and cons with an open mind.

I believe it is a mistake to dismiss out of hand the idea of limited building in the parks.

First, the proportion of Hong Kong's land mass dedicated to country parks is so extreme, at 40 per cent, that limited building there need not interfere noticeably with anyone's ability to enjoy nature.

Considering that only 7 per cent of our land is used for residential purposes, reallocating a tiny proportion of the parks could generate enough new residential space to revolutionise living standards in Hong Kong.

If anyone believes that the country parks should remain inviolable in their entirety, I suggest they view the map of parks at the Agricultural, Fisheries, and Conservation Department website and ask themselves honestly if they cannot find 10 per cent of park land that they would be willing to sacrifice in order to increase the average flat size by 60 per cent.

Second, the argument that the new flats will be expensive and therefore are no help to the poor is incorrect.

It is wrong because it focuses only on incremental supply and ignores the price impact of this supply on the rest of the market. A big increase in supply is going to push prices down market-wide.

Furthermore, if the new flats are expensive, it is only because they are desirable relative to the existing housing stock, which consists of too many shoebox flats.

If Hong Kong is ever to improve its quality of life, we will eventually have to start building more large flats.

George Richard Warfield, Pok Fu Lam