Wang Chau housing saga

CY Leung vows to boost housing land supply, even if prices drop by HK$1 million for new flats

Leung Chun-ying also sounds defiant note on use of violence or obstruction to oppose government housing policies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 11:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 12:12pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Friday night pledged to ramp up the city’s land supply and make tough calls on green-belt sites to benefit lower-income residents stuck in sub-divided flats, while bringing down inflated prices in the private housing market.

Facing intense criticism for his controversial handling of a housing project in the New Territories, Leung said that while the potential private housing supply would reach about 93,000 flats in the next three to four years – a record since 2004 – his administration would not be satisfied even if the prices of those units dropped by HK$1 ­million each.

Hong Kong rural leader says opponents exploited ‘public misunderstanding’ in housing development controversy

“Hong Kong buyers could save HK$93 billion altogether ... but the government and society cannot be complacent because Hong Kong people’s living quality will not improve without a further ­increase in supply,” Leung said at a banquet hosted by the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre think tank.

Leung also sounded a defiant tone, saying: “I remember that in 2012, when development minister Paul Chan attended a forum ... a water bottle was thrown at him.

“The government is not afraid of this kind of violence or obstruction ... We will try our best to win residents’ support, cooperation and understanding in pushing forward development plans.”

Leung’s pledge came just a few days after he took ultimate responsibility for the partial suspension of the Wang Chau housing project in Yuen Long, while denying that he bowed to pressure from rural landlords who ­opposed the plan, while denying that he had bowed to pressure from rural strongmen with vested land interests.

The bulk of the plan was deferred and the development shifted to a nearby green-belt area that will have to be vacated by residents from three villages. Rural leaders had warned of traffic congestion if 17,000 public housing units were built in Wang Chau in one go.

In an oblique reference to the plan, Leung said: “If we cannot touch green-belt sites, how can we face residents living in sub-divided flats in industrial buildings?

“Traffic congestion is a matter of convenience. If one cannot get a public rental flat and has to live in a subdivided unit, especially those in industrial buildings, that is a matter of safety and lives.”

At another function, Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong said: “The initial intention of the Wang Chau development is to build safe public housing ­estates with decent living environments for low-income residents. After the controversy is over, I hope everyone can work with their hearts and come up with some reasonable and fair compensation package.”

Meanwhile, property tycoon Ronnie Chan Chichung became the first prominent public figure to openly endorse incumbent Leung Chun-ying for a second term.

The Hang Lung Group chairman publicised his support against the backdrop of a widening rift between the chief executive and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, Leung’s potential rival in the coming race, over the Wang Chau development.

On the sidelines of the Bauhinia Foundation function on Friday night, Tsang was asked about Chan’s support for Leung. “How did he see” it, he was asked. “Use your eyes to see,” Tsang replied.