Land donations that came with host of problems

Government would have had to abandon its policies to accept tycoon's philanthropic gesture

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 4:07am

The plots of land which tycoon Lee Shau-kee hoped to donate to the government came with a set of problems that may explain why his offer was turned down: his insistence on not paying a land premium, his desire that the flats be for young people only, and physical constraints affecting the sites themselves.

Lee said last night that only the initial two sites - at Yuen Long and Fanling - out of a total of seven he planned to hand over eventually were "ripe" for development. The rest had issues that needed one to two years to fix.

"The government wanted to kick off but it can't," Lee, the chairman of Henderson Land Development, said.

One of the sites, although in a built-up area, had no road access because a piece of private land stood in the way, he said.

Officials would first have had to publish a plan to seize the private land - a process, including negotiation with the site owner, would could take two to three years, Lee added.

Other sites did not fulfil town planning and environment requirements, he said.

Lee Wing-tat, a former lawmaker who now runs concern group Land Watch, said the developer's original idea that the authorities should waive the land premium so that the flats could be sold at HK$1 million each to young people was "very hard for the government to accept".

"This is the most troublesome part because it relates to the consistency of government policy," said Lee.

"What if another developer comes forward later with the offer of a donation and gives different conditions? Should it entertain them, too?"

Subsidised housing schemes past and present, such as the Housing Authority's Home Ownership Scheme, do not set an age limit for buyers.

They sell flats at discounts based on market value, say 30 per cent off, instead of pricing them based on construction costs, which Lee Shau-kee proposed. The Housing Society also pays a land premium, with a 50 per cent discount, to the government.

But even if the flat prices were based on building costs, the Housing Society said it would also have to take into consideration factors such as the cost of site preparation and whether there were existing tenants.

"To be honest, if there are tenants that need relocation and want another site to continue their farming lifestyle, we won't have the resources to do that," said society chairman Marco Wu Moon-hoi.

Lee Wing-tat said that if a site involved a lot of technical complexities, the developer should have to pay money to the society, on top of giving it the land.

He added that he had learned from the developer that one of the "ripe" sites is located near the Fanling section of Sha Tau Kok Road. It is in a built-up area and planning approval had been given for a petrol station.