Senior officials yesterday rejected a government housing adviser's call for sites that developers had not bid for to be rezoned for public housing. The development minister said the administration must avoid "taking the wrong medication".
Data released by the Lands Department last week showed that developers had snubbed offers to sell land for development, most of it for housing. Despite rising demand for flats, almost one-third of the sites the government offered to sell to developers had gone unsold for up to five years.
The figures prompted Michael Choi Ngai-min, a member of the government's Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, to urge the administration to attract developers by tendering the sites not auctioned off after two years.
"If the developers still show no interest, the sites should be rezoned for public flats or subsidised housing," Choi said.
But Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said the government already holds regular land auctions, and a fixed target of two years would be inappropriate.
"Developers have their own considerations in their land applications, which we will not speculate about," Chan said. "Even if the sites are not being sold, it does not mean they are unpopular or unsuitable for development."
"While we acknowledge that we are short of flats, both public and private, we have to keep calm and avoid taking the wrong medication," he said.
"The government will not leave the sites idle for a long time."
Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung also rejected Choi's call, noting that some sites might not be suitable for densely populated public housing.