Ending the small-house policy for indigenous villagers in the New Territories would boost land supply and ease the city's housing shortage, the Civic Party says.
And the land shortage should not be used as "an excuse" by the government for not relieving the housing situation, party executive committee member Bonnie Leung Wing-man said yesterday at the weekly City Forum.
In place since 1972, the policy allows male indigenous villagers to build three-storey houses. Official data show nearly half of the city's vacant government land is reserved for building the homes.
"We need to draw a line. If we reserve so much of our land for them that we don't have enough land overall, I wonder if this policy is just," Leung said.
It has been suggested the small-house rights, stipulated in the Basic Law, be bought back from villagers, that they be compensated in other ways, or settled in high-rises in the city. Leung said there should be more debate on the matter to find a solution "before more generations of villagers" are entitled to the rights.
At the same forum, legislator Michael Tien Puk-sun, of the New People's Party, said recent government claims that land supply is tight might not be true.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said earlier that Hongkongers should make sacrifices to solve housing issues, in response to opposition to public housing.
But Tien, former Kowloon-Canton Railway chairman, said the government had held back a New Territories rail project that could yield 50,000 flats. "It's been 10 years and still it hasn't started."
Meanwhile, Society for Community Organisation activist Ho Hei-wah called for Leung to provide rent subsidies for the needy in his maiden policy speech on January 16. Ho led 100 protesters to Government House yesterday.