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Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong government’s plan for new towns and reclaimed islands to house growing population

New blueprint estimates city’s headcount to peak in 2043 at 8.22 million

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 October, 2016, 11:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 12:36am

Hong Kong will need to find – or reclaim – at least 1,200 hectares of extra land to house its growing population and stimulate the economy after 2030, according to the government’s latest long-term planning blueprint.

The 2030 Plus planning strategy, released yesterday for public consultation, recommended building two major new towns in the north New Territories and on reclaimed land east of Lantau Island, which would provide 1,720 hectares, to hit that target.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po also said the government was “very determined” to develop brownfield sites to increase land supply.

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The blueprint, drafted with advice from a panel of 15 experts in different fields, envisioned the city after 2030 as a more livable place with larger flats, more public space for relaxing, a cycling- and pedestrian-friendly transport system, and scenic country parks protected from development.

“The planning strategy is driven by the vision of creating more capacity,” Chan said. “With ample land supply, living conditions can be improved. If we do not massively increase land supply, it will be highly difficult to improve the living area per person.”

The plan is also said to address a looming need to relocate people affected by renovation or replacement of ageing buildings. It highlighted that by 2046, there will be 326,000 flats 70 years old or over.

The latest official population projection estimated that the city’s population would peak in 2043 at 8.22 million before dropping to 7.81 million by 2064.

To accommodate population growth and stimulate the economy, the city would need at least 4,800 hectares of new land, including about 1,700 for housing, the consultation document says.

In addition to the 3,600 hectares already identified by the government, including 1,400 for housing, the city will need an extra 1,200 hectares of land. Of that, around 200 hectares would be proposed for housing, 300 for business and industry, and 700 hectares for leisure and transport.

Chan said the government had overestimated the requirement for housing by about 10 per cent to provide for larger flats.

He said the government was determined to tackle the difficulties in developing brownfield sites – degraded agricultural land ­occupied by things like car parks, container storage, vehicle repair sites and recycling yards.

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With two brownfield studies set to finish by 2018, a Development Bureau spokesman said the government would not only look at providing alternative sites with higher land use efficiency to accommodate the affected operations, but also a system to compensate their owners.

But the spokesman said there were reservations about a ­proposal – included in the northern New Territories development study – to build houses on a 170-hectare golf course in Fanling which had been leased to the Hong Kong Golf Club. He said the site is dominated by old trees, historic buildings and graves, and lacks infrastructure.

Although the recommended east Lantau and north New Territories developments could provide more land than required, Director of Planning Ling Kar-kan said a larger land bank could prepare the city for uncertainties.

Developing country parks was out of the question, Chan said, adding the government would preserve high-quality farmlands and build an agriculture park.