CY Leung's housing will require focus on land supply, backer says
Leung backer says building plans could fall apart unless the chief executive delivers sites big enough to handle large numbers of flats
Leung Chun-ying's ambitious housing targets risk being missed if the government does not prioritise building up land reserves, a key supporter of the chief executive has warned.
Property specialist Nicholas Brooke, a former president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, told the South China Morning Post yesterday that the government should prioritise making sites available that could handle large numbers of flats.
"The potential for the programme to slip is quite high because it's so complicated," Brooke said, warning that such difficulties could limit the government's ability to rein in property prices. "[Leung] has laid out his stall fairly well. But every site has its own challenges: land conversion, planning permission and infrastructure."
Brooke, who nominated Leung in last year's chief executive poll, said the compartmentalised mentality of civil servants could undermine the government's ability to deliver more land.
He also expects the already stretched construction industry would struggle to take on more work due to limited workers and resources, and believes the land supply programme will further increase construction costs.
His comments followed Leung's announcement in his maiden policy address of a raft of land supply measures, including controversial plans such as the creation of huge artificial islands west of Hong Kong Island, developing the border area, and lifting development restrictions in Pok Fu Lam and Mid-Levels.
Brooke said Leung was also constrained by the legacy of the previous administration, which did little to address a serious shortfall in land supply.
"There's no quick fix. There's not a great deal that can be done in the next 18 months," he said.
"It's more about sending messages," Brooke said. "If more supply comes on the market to ensure the price won't rise, the price will fall as people will wait rather than buy."
Apart from auctioning off new sites, Brooke said the government could allow more intense development on agricultural land in the New Territories and for new residential and commercial developments at the West Kowloon Cultural District.
But allowing more intense development should not compromise the living environment, he said. For example, the plan to remove a 40-year-old moratorium on new development at sites in Pok Fu Lam and Mid-Levels should avoid the creation of traffic and pollution problems.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po yesterday fielded questions about the potential benefits of lifting the moratorium for a key election supporter of Leung's.
Hang Lung Group, led by Leung supporter Ronnie Chan Chichung, had its plans to redevelop the Ebenezer School & Home for the Visually Impaired on Pok Fu Lam Road rejected by the Town Planning Board in 2011 due to concerns about traffic.
"[Lifting the moratorium] has nothing to do with benefiting [Leung's] allies," Paul Chan said at a press conference. "Instead, it will be conducive to increasing the supply of public housing."
There are expectations that removing the controls will make possible the long-awaited redevelopment of the 45-year-old Wah Fu Estate in Pok Fu Lam, as the Housing Authority would be able to find a site nearby to rehouse residents affected by redevelopment.
Leung has also scrapped the last administration's plan to maintain the closed border area, gradually being opened up after 60 years of restrictions, as a green buffer between Hong Kong and the more heavily developed Shenzhen.
Chan said ecologically sensitive areas would be left untouched but other parts, together with adjacent land, could be developed into a new town the size of Fanling or Sheung Shui.