Development chief’s selective use of facts on housing supply in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 11:15pm

Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, speaking about the dire need for land to meet Hong Kong’s future housing needs, engaged in his usual cherry-picking of data (“Hong Kong development boss hits back at land policy critics”, October 17).

He bemoaned the drop in land supply from 8,000 hectares in 1985-2000 to 3,800 hectares in 2000-2015. But he neglected to note that in 1985-2000, the population increased by 1.21 million, whereas in 2000-2015, it increased by only 610,000. On a per-person basis, new land available per new resident was 0.0066 hectares in 1985-2000, and 0.0062 hectares in 2000-2015.

Thus the new land available on a per person basis in the two periods (a 6 per cent difference) is comparable and consistent with the population. Not noting the reason for the decrease distorts the true picture by ignoring the slowing increase in population.

Similarly, Mr Chan has advocated developing new towns, such as the East Lantau Metropolis, by reclaiming 1,000 hectares from the sea to house up to 700,000 people, based on selective data comparing it to the nine new towns built in the last 50 years.

He omits the fact that during the last 50 years, the population increased 102 per cent, whereas in the next 50 years, it will increase by only 7 per cent (to 7.81 million in 2064), according to the Census and Statistics Department, peaking at 8.22 million in 2043.

On housing supply to meet Hong Kong’s needs between 2014 and 2044, Mr Chan again misleads. In addition to the need to house a 13.5 per cent increase in population (980,000) and a 20 per cent increase in households (500,000), he claims housing is also required for 90,000 subdivided flat dwellers and a backlog of 290,000 applicants for public housing. In fact there are 2.67 million flats in Hong Kong now.

The government plans to add 460,000 units in the next 10 years, bringing the total to 3.13 million units – more than enough to house the peak 2.93 million households (including new immigrants) projected for 2044.

The 290,000 public housing applicants are already counted as they are living now among the current 2.67 million flats, which will come available when they move to the planned new units.

The issue is not the lack of land or housing. It is the lack of political will to secure the land already targeted for new housing, as the scandal involving Wang Chau glaringly revealed.

Tom Yam, Lantau