Legislative Council elections 2016

Who says we’re done building? Hong Kong housing authority adviser claims public housing project still in works

Controversial brownfield site approved for 4,000 flats could get more, ex-Town Planning Board vice-chairman insists

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 9:42am

The Hong Kong government has not abandoned a public housing project at a controversial brownfield site in the New Territories, despite allegations that authorities have yielded to public pressure to forgo its development, a Housing Authority member said.

The revelation came a day after newly elected lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick urged Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to explain why the government did not develop Wang Chau brownfield site in Yuen Long – which could have provided 17,000 flats – and instead opted for a scaled-down version with only 4,000 flats in another site where three villages are now located.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the Housing Authority’s subsidised housing committee, said plans to build the remaining 13,000 flats for public housing were still in the works.

Just how committed is the Hong Kong government to solving the housing problem?

“According to my understanding, it’s not a matter of either 17,000 units or 4,000 units,” he said. “Developing 4,000 flats doesn’t mean abandoning the original plan of 17,000.”

The Wang Chau plan, which has been strongly opposed by rural landlords, has brought forth allegations from Chu and others that the government opted out of developing the site in order to appease those who have vested interests in the land.

Developing 4,000 flats doesn’t mean abandoning the original plan of 17,000
Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, Housing Authority

It is understood police are investigating whether a rural strongman with triad connections was behind the death threats Chu has recently faced.

Wong, formerly vice-chairman of the Town Planning Board overseeing the project’s approval, said it was the government’s policy to first develop land that was easier to handle to ensure flats are delivered on time given a long queue exists for public housing. He said the rest would be carried out in phases.

The government has had difficulty developing brownfield sites, such as storage depots and scrap car yards, which have been taken up abandoned farmland across the New Territories.

Although activists have urged the government to prioritise using brownfield sites for housing before considering developing green belts and country parks, authorities have said such an approach would entail rehousing villagers as well as finding alternative solutions for different ongoing operations such as recycling yards and pig farms.

Hong Kong officials eye residential development in Yuen Long for 85,000 people from 2026

Chu told reporters on Sunday that the chief executive said he would instruct the development secretary Paul Chan Mo-po to look into the case.

The environmentalist-turned lawmaker is to meet Chan and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, the newly elected lawmaker for the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector on Thursday morning, according to a source close to the matter.

The development bureau did not respond to the Post’s enquiries by press time.

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao