End small-house abuses before making them taller, Fred Li says
The shortage of land for housing should be addressed by tackling the "commercialisation" of village houses, not necessarily by making the homes taller, a government adviser says.
Fred Li Wah-ming, a member of the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, made the suggestion on a radio programme, sparked by last week's debate about the small-house policy. He also criticised the government for being lax in clamping down on the illicit sale of rights to build small houses.
"The whole issue is not simply a land [problem] and could not be solved simply by raising height limits … There is the view that the policy leads to commercialisation. Many people are exploiting a grey area to sell the rights to some middlemen, so they can build and sell houses with developers," Li said.
The small-house policy gives male indigenous villagers the right to build a three-storey house on a 700 sq ft site close to their ancestral homes. Critics say the policy is discriminatory and open to abuse for profit through collusion with developers.
Li's comments on the issue came after Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po wrote in a newspaper column on Friday that a review of the four-decade-old policy was necessary but would take a long time.
Speaking on the same RTHK programme as Li, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, chairman of Tuen Mun Rural Committee, warned that there might be "huge opposition" if villagers' right to build a small house were taken away.
While he admitted that selling rights to middlemen was common, Ho said many villagers simply develop land they already own. "There are written rules, but many think out of the box about what to do within the rules."