Hong Kong housing

Public opposition will block land shortfall solution for development blueprint, critics say

Scholars pour cold water on areas identified to solve the extra 1,200 hectares needed in the post-2030 housing and economic plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 October, 2016, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 October, 2016, 11:27pm

Public opposition will make it “extremely difficult” for the government to meet a shortfall of 1,200 hectares required for housing and economic development beyond 2030, despite two potential areas identified, critics say.

Planning authorities yesterday unveiled a new blueprint mapping out Hong Kong’s urban landscape after 2030, with 1,200 hectares of land that the government still needed to identify, out of the 4,800 hectares estimated for development.

The Planning Department recommended reclaiming land off the waters of East Lantau as well as rezoning land in the Northern New Territories, which could provide homes for one million people.

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Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, a member of the Town Planning Board and a senior lecturer at the City University, said public opposition is likely to be the biggest obstacle.

“Getting the public’s approval will always be the biggest challenge,” Poon said.

“But it’s also unpredictable, seeing as society’s values and what they want may be different by then,” he added.

Poon said environmentalists and activists were likely to oppose plans to reclaim 1,000 hectares of land off the waters of two existing islands – Kau Yi Chau and Hei Ling Chau in eastern Lantau.

He said it would be even more difficult to resettle businesses on brownfield sites – degraded agricultural land – in northern New Territories where there is a potential of 720 hectares.

The department said a major vision was to make Hong Kong a more liveable high-density city, by increasing the ratio of open space per person from the current 2 square metres to 2.5 square metres.

A spokeswoman for the department acknowledged, however, that it was a difficult task as six areas in Hong Kong already failed to meet the particular ratio.

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According to the blueprint, about a third – 1,700 hectares – of the total required land is already earmarked for housing development. The government said about 10 per cent of this was reserved for bigger flats in both private and public housing developments.

But Poon said it was difficult to predict whether developers would actually build bigger flats.

“Flats are commodities, so they’re actually being determined by market demand. It also depends on the economic situation at the time,” he said.

One expert also expressed disappointment towards the government’s top-down ­approach in the blueprint.

Professor Ng Mee-kam, director of the Chinese University’s urban studies programme, said she felt like she had no choice but to accept the government’s vision.

“A real strategy should start with a [shared] vision, then you can rally support,” she said.