Plan for 215,000 new flats eats into Hong Kong's green belts

Government document released yesterday shows 152 sites where, after rezonings, 470,000 flats will be built over the next 10 years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 4:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 9:49am

A home-building plan aimed at tackling Hong Kong's chronic housing shortage looks set to eat up swathes of green belt and community sites in satellite towns in the New Territories, according to a paper released yesterday.

The government document showed the geographical distribution of 152 sites on which authorities plan to build about half of the 470,000 units of housing it has promised over the next 10 years.

The paper was presented to the Legislative Council. It did not detail the exact location of the sites. It is expected that at least one-third of the land required will come from green belts and government-use sites in the big satellite towns of Yuen Long and Tun Mun, home to tens of thousands of people.

In last week's policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said his administration had enough land to meet its housing target. The government will now have to sell the proposal to residents and ensure the workforce of the construction industry is big enough to carry out the plan.

Yesterday, Leung said the rezoning of the green belts and public sites - those designated for government and community use, such as schools, churches, hospitals - would add 215,000 flats over the next five years, which is about 45 per cent of the 10-year target.

According to the paper, of the 152 sites, 23 are in Tai Po, 22 in Tuen Mun and 14 in Yuen Long. There are 11 in Sha Tin and six in North District. Those five districts are expected to provide 129,800 flats, or 60 per cent of the total obtained from rezoning and equivalent to almost one-third of the target.

Twelve sites in Sai Kung will be rezoned to allow for 25,300 flats. Fourteen sites in Southern District will be rezoned for the building of 10,400 flats.

Southern District Council chairman Chu Ching-hong said the police training school in Wong Chuk Hang could be a site for rezoning given its large size and prime location.

Some 16,400 flats, 3 per cent of the target, will be derived from rezoning on Hong Kong Island. Two sites were identified, in Central and Western District.

Central and Western District Council vice-chairman Chan Hok-fung said the rezoning proposal could cover the former incineration plant in Kennedy Town and a nearby former police barracks. In densely populated Wong Tai Sin and Sham Shui Po, only one site was selected. In Kowloon, Kwun Tong provides the most sites, 13. There were no sites in Wan Chai or Yau Tsim Mong.

Yuen Long district councillor Tang Ho-nin, who chairs the council's town planning and development committee, said the government should first consider developing brownfield sites occupied by car-repair workshops and waste-sorting sites.

"Isn't it ironic that they ban us from building village houses in green belts while using them to build high-rises?" he said. "Having said that, I won't oppose the rezoning provided that the high-rises are not too close to our villages and enough infrastructure is built for community use."

He said the government should not produce another imbalanced community like Tin Shui Wai, in Yuen Long, where 80 per cent of all housing consists of public flats.