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Hong Kong housing

Yuen Long residents fear eviction as government mulls public housing project

Plans to develop a greenbelt site in Yuen Long could see three villages displaced, as government considers plans for 4,000 public housing flats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 5:55pm

Tenants at a controversial plot of land in Yuen Long are worried they may be evicted as the government is under pressure to speed up a plan to build public housing on the site.

They have also questioned the feasibility of the plan, saying an industrial zone next to the site will make the area unfit for living.

A plan to build 17,000 public housing flats on the 33-hectare brownfield site – agricultural land in rural parts of the New Territories occupied by various industrial operations – in Wang Chau first surfaced in 2013. However, the government later scaled down the plan and opted to build 4,000 flats on a nearby 5.6-hectare greenbelt site – a heavily vegetated area under stricter planning rules – ­involving three non-indigenous villages.

Newly-elected lawmaker ­Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who has criticised the government for succumbing to opposition from rural strongmen with triad links and vested interests in the brownfield site, is under police protection after receiving death threats.

Residents living in the affected villages urged the government to develop the brownfield site first before taking their homes away.

A source said the Housing Department is now considering revisiting the original plan. The government said that it had simply taken the greenbelt site plan as priority.

Siu Kin, 55, has been running a garage on the brownfield site for 15 years. He said if the government was willing to relocate the garage he would support the plan.

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

“We have six workers in the garage. They all have families,” said Siu. “If we are forced to move, we don’t know where to go. Then six families will lose their incomes.”

The site includes both government-owned and private land. The government first consulted the Ping Shan Rural Committee with the larger plan in 2013, according to Leung Che-cheung, Yuen Long district council chairman, who has close ties to the committee. The next year, when the Housing Department tabled the scheme to the District Council, it had been scaled down to the 4,000-flat plan.

Residents in the three affected villages said they did not deserve to be homeless. Ng Kwai-ngor, 80, said she had been living in Wing Ning Tsuen to the south of the brownfield site for about 70 years. She choked up at the thought of moving out of her home.

“I started to grow vegetables and raise ducks and pigs here when I was a teenager,” said Ng. “I’m deeply connected with this place. Even if the government gives me a public housing flat, it will not be as big and it will be very difficult to get up and down.”

Ng said the government did not consult villagers about the plan. She said her daughter, who lives with her, only made about HK$10,000 a month, which would not be enough to rent a place outside the area.

Ng’s house is on land owned by developer New World. If the government builds on the area, compensation would go to New World, according to Ng’s son.