District councillors have reluctantly accepted a Housing Department's proposal to build a big public housing block near the former Kai Tak airport, despite concerns about noise from an adjacent road.
After initially seeking to move the 860-flat project to another site in San Po Kong, most members of Wong Tai Sin District Council's housing panel raised no objection yesterday to the government proposal. The government says the need for housing is too urgent to allow further delay and that noise concerns could be alleviated by using insulated windows.
'It was an embarrassing situation,' housing panel member Li Tak-hong said after the meeting. 'We have previously objected to the site because of the noise and asked the department to relocate the project to a recreational site nearby.'
The site sits along Prince Edward Road East, across from the former airport. The 33-storey tower would provide flats for 2,470 people when completed in 2016. Construction is scheduled to start early next year.
Such single-block projects represent a change of strategy by the Housing Department, which used to prefer building multiple blocks of rental flats on large sites to keep per-flat construction costs as low as possible. But the government has increasingly turned to smaller sites in recent years, as the number of large sites dwindles.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying emphasised single-block construction in his election manifesto. The waiting list for public rental housing has hit 189,500, a 20-year high.
The Housing Department turned down councillors' call for moving the San Po Kong project, saying the alternative site was too close to an industrial area and less suitable for residential development. Officials said moving the project could delay construction by as much as four years.
The government said that using double-glazed windows would reduce traffic noise - recorded at 70 decibels during a daytime site visit. The windows, the government said, would reduce ambient noise by an average of eight decibels.
Even so, Li said that could still be uncomfortable for residents.
'We knew there was a mounting housing problem so we reluctantly accepted the proposal,' Li said. 'But we required the department to plant more trees and put noise-reducing paving on the section of the main road and report to us regularly.'
The number of residents who could live in the San Po Kong block, out of more than 189,000 who are on the public housing waiting list