Lawmakers from across political spectrum urge government to look to brownfield sites for city’s housing needs
Suggestions come amid three-day debate on whether to thank Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for latest policy address
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum urged the government to transform brownfield sites such as sprawling container yards into land for housing, as they continued to debate whether to thank Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for his fifth and final policy address.
The vote on the traditional motion of thanks is expected to take place on Friday night. If it is voted down, Leung will become the first chief executive since the 1997 handover to fail to receive recognition from lawmakers for his policy addresses.
The three-day debate, which kicked off on Wednesday, is divided into five sessions with different policy themes, and the focus on Thursday was on land and housing.
Pan-democrat lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung of the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre said the chief executive had failed to resolve the city’s housing problem.
“Our job is to raise suggestions to the government, but did officials listen?” the veteran lawmaker asked. “When we urged them to develop brownfield sites, they said there were lots of problems and studies were needed ... But at the same time, Leung Chun-ying proposed developing country parks and caused conflict between conservationists and those in need of housing.”
In his policy address last month, the chief executive said Hong Kong “should also consider allocating a small proportion of land on the periphery of country parks with relatively low ecological value” for housing and non-profit-making elderly homes.
He also promised that the Planning Department would conduct a survey on the distribution and use of all brownfield sites in Hong Kong this year.
But Democratic Party’s Ted Hui Chi-fung said country parks should be “the last resort”.
“We believe that brownfield sites should be the priority ... and the next administration should learn a lesson on how to find land in the New Territories to solve the housing problem,” Hui said.
Gary Chan Hak-kan, vice-chairman of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, also suggested giving priority to developments on brownfield sites, which would involve clearing out businesses such as garages, car parks and container storage yards.
“If we do not develop brownfield sites first, it will be difficult for society to accept development in country parks,” Chan said. “But reasonable compensation must also be provided to the businesses or residents on the brownfield sites ... It would be better if the development bureau had the housing resources to resettle them.”
Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Alice Mei-kuen, who chairs the Legco’s housing panel, suggested that another way to solve Hong Kong’s housing shortage was for the Housing Authority and the Urban Renewal Authority to join hands in building subsidised homes.
“The housing minister said that there were many problems with this suggestion, but I believe those are only technical problems and can be overcome,” Mak said.
Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung said a large amount of land taken up by brownfield sites in the New Territories would be developed in the government’s proposed new town projects.
“Right now a lot of industrial works rely on brownfield sites. If we ignore their needs, it will only force them to spread to other parts of Hong Kong,” Ma warned. “Therefore we will review the use of brownfield sites and consider proposals such as moving those businesses into multi-storey buildings.”
Ma also reiterated that the current administration had no plan to develop country parks.
“The topic was touched on in the policy address only because we wanted to encourage more thinking on the direction of our land policy,” he added.