Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee has confirmed he is in talks with the government to donate a plot of farmland in Fanling to build affordable housing for young people.
The site, which will provide more than 1,000 flats, is one of seven sites offered by Lee to the government, Lee said after the annual general meeting of his listed flagship Henderson Land Development yesterday.
"I am getting old, already 80-something. I know how to make money, but I also want to use it meaningfully," he said, dismissing speculation his donation was intended to benefit his business.
Lee said the government had picked a Fanling site - which could have been used to build a petrol station - from seven and was studying the possibility.
The site, covering more than 100,000 square feet and owned by his private company, was worth HK$200 million to HK$300 million, he said.
His wish was that it would yield flats of 300 sq ft to be sold for HK$1 million each, taking into account that the construction cost would be about HK$3,000 per square foot. His company would not carry out the construction.
Lee said the government should not charge a premium for changing the land use, otherwise the price of the flats could not be as low as HK$1 million.
The tycoon first publicly raised the idea in January, saying he would be willing to build small homes on his land in the New Territories and sell them cheaply to first-time buyers.
The seven sites he wants to donate, costing between HK$800 million and HK$1 billion, could produce a total of 10,000 flats. Some are owned by Henderson Land.
"Some minority shareholders may not agree to donate the company's sites to the government for free. But I will compensate them if [those] are donated," Lee said.
A government spokesman said the developer's proposal would be "actively considered" but the government would also have to take into account whether the site met town planning, transport and environmental requirements.
Government housing adviser Marco Wu Moon-hoi said that if the site was taken, it should fall under existing policies of subsidised housing, which do not set an age limit on the beneficiaries, in order to prevent confusion. He said adjustments could be made within the current policies to address young people's needs.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun and Ho Hei-wah of the Society for Community Organisation welcomed Lee's proposal, saying the government should allow flexibility in using the site. "As long as Lee is paying a larger share of costs than the government in providing the flats, the donor should have a say in how the land is used," To said.