HOUSING

Tycoon Lee Shau-kee confident of reaching deal about land transfer

Lee Shau-kee in talks with Housing Society on land transfer; he dismisses bid by farmer to stay

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 3:45pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 August, 2013, 5:37am

Tycoon Lee Shau-kee is confident of reaching a deal within three months with the Housing Society to donate farmland in Yuen Long to provide cheap homes for sale.

The chairman of Henderson Land also said the threat of a lawsuit by a farmer, who has lived on the site for 20 years and claims ownership through adverse possession, was only a "minor problem".

[The farmer] may demand some compensation. If they like to farm, it is OK to give them [another] piece of farmland to farm

"They [the farmer] may demand some compensation," Lee said. "If they like to farm, it is OK to give them [another] piece of farmland to farm."

Lee has said he wants to help young people, priced out of the market, get on the property ladder. But his critics suspect ulterior motives in the land offer. They say infrastructure for the new flats, paid for by the taxpayer, would boost his other property assets in the area.

Lee turned to the Housing Society after the government declined his offer of the 63,500 square foot site on Shap Pat Heung Road. He wanted to build more than 1,000 homes, each of 300 square feet, that could be sold to young people for about HK$1 million.

Lee agreed that the society would decide who should get the housing. Under Lee's revised plan, the flats would cost about HK$1.2 million. He believed "the deal [with the Housing Society] could be made in one or two months, or at most two or three months".

But Chan Wai-ming, owner of Tin Heung Garden, a 60,000 sq ft farm in Ma Tin Pok village, says his plot is on the site.

Chan said he had been farming the land since 1999 without paying rent and lived there with six family members. A lawyer had suggested he could claim the land through adverse possession. This allows a squatter to obtain the right to land by occupying it long enough to extinguish the original owner's title.

But a Henderson spokesman believed the claim was not valid. He said the company had received rent from a tenant, who sublet the farmland to Chan.

Chan said he would not accept the offer of another plot and home elsewhere because his plants might suffer.

"I have over 10,000 plants growing here and I grow different species in different seasons," he said. "Why should the government move them to another place, like dumping them in a landfill?

"I hope Mr Lee can spare our farm so we can eat," said Chan.