Chief executive’s policy address 2017

Hong Kong should weigh up pros and cons of building homes in country parks, chief executive says

But government will also protect more land with a high ecological value

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 4:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 10:42am

Building flats on the margins of country park margins was an option the public needed to consider to counter unaffordable home costs, Chief Executive Leung Chung-ying said in his last policy address on Wednesday.

At the same time, the government would incorporate more land with high ecological value into country parks.

“This issue matters to the well-being of our next generation and warrants serious deliberation of its pros and cons by society,” Leung said.

Using Hong Kong’s country parks may be one way to solve its housing supply problem

Skyrocketing property prices and rents were not caused by high construction costs – a reason often used by developers to explain shockingly high flat prices – but soaring land premiums, he said.

“Most families in Hong Kong can afford the construction costs passed on to them, yet the exorbitant land premium is beyond their means.”

The reason for the high premiums was that there had been a shortage of land zoned for housing development, accounting for only 7 per cent of all land in the city, he said, while country parks took up 40 per cent.

Leung said society should consider using “a small proportion of land on the periphery of country parks with relatively low ecological and public enjoyment value” for developments such as public housing and non-profit homes for the elderly.

But a government source said although this was a question Leung had left for the public to consider, the current administration had no plan to develop country parks or change some preserved land for other uses.

Hong Kong’s country park protection must take into account housing needs

On enlarging country parks, the government would start working on designating the 500-hectare Robin’s Nest in Sha Tau Kok a country park, Leung said.

The government would also consider preserving a privately owned site with high ecological significance, Sha Lo Tung in Tai Po, by offering the owner another site on the restored Shuen Wan landfill in Tai Po in exchange, Leung said.

A government source said the Sha Lo Tung case would be a one-off case due to its uniqueness – it had high conservation value and the owner had little opportunity to develop on the site. The source said the land exchange would not become a custom in the long run.