Increase population density in NT new towns, surveyors say

Density of homes in planned NT communities should be increased to help ease city’s shortage of affordable housing, says surveyors institute

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 4:09am

The population of three proposed new towns in the northeastern New Territories should be boosted by up to 40 per cent, the Institute of Surveyors said.

With demand for flats increasing, the institute questioned why the development ratio of the area was only 284 people per hectare when the average ratio for the city was 400 people per hectare.

The proposal comes after a call this week for the government to more than double the number of new homes planned at the former Kai Tak airport. Michael Choi Ngai-min, a government adviser on housing, said 30,000 flats would barely address people's needs in the face of the housing crunch.

The New Territories developments total 533 hectares in Fanling North, Kwu Tung North, Ta Kwu Ling and Ping Che. The plan would provide 53,800 homes for 152,000 people.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said that increasing supply would be the focus of his efforts to solve the city's housing problems, as a shortage of homes was at the root of a lack of affordable living space. While there are approximately 250,000 empty private homes in the city, it lacks sufficient low-cost housing.

Lau Chun-kong, convenor of the institute's general practice division, said: "The northeastern New Territories is a prime development location, with the MTR running to the area. If we cannot attain the 1 to 400 ratio there, how can we be sure that we can keep up that ratio in the future, even if we resort to sea reclamation?"

There was potential to build taller apartment blocks or put areas intended for other facilities to residential use, he said.

The government had already come under fire for reserving a large portion of vacant land for small houses.

The surveyors' group suggested the government co-operate with developers who have bought up agricultural land in the northeastern New Territories by allowing it to be rezoned for residential use, with builders paying the land premium differences.

The institute also called for the government to clarify its compensation plan when it resumes land from indigenous residents.

Fears that Hong Kong families will miss out to mainland buyers could cause another political crisis. Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po has proposed a "Hong Kong property for Hong Kong residents" scheme, but Lau advocates minimal interference in the property market.

Leung said earlier he would "definitely" expand a scheme being pioneered at two sites in Kai Tak, where only permanent residents will be able to own homes for the next 30 years.

A spokeswoman for the Development Bureau said public consultations on the new-town plans had ended. However, she said, the bureau would continue to listen to the views of different sectors.