Land supply and housing may not have been the focus of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's policy address, but they are just as important as poverty and helping the poor. His pledge to have 470,000 flats built over the next decade to end an acute shortage is as challenging as it is ambitious. Creative ways have been formulated to attain the goal and there are already objectors and sceptics. The plans are pragmatic and focused, and deserving of our every support.
High property prices and rents have become a source of social discontent. Leung has made affordable housing a priority, but finding enough land for so many flats has stymied progress. He claims that measures detailed in Wednesday's speech will meet needs. Some are controversial and bound to upset environmentalists; others will lead to inconvenience and perhaps anger. Given the scale of the task, the land can hopefully be acquired quickly so that construction can begin. The interests of the more than 200,000 people waiting for public housing should take precedence.
There have already been heated protests over plans for new towns in the northeast New Territories. Housing will also be built in the western New Territories at Hung Shui Kui and Yuen Long, in North District and at Tung Chung on Lantau. Of the flats needed , 89,000 will be built on rezoned land; a further 11,900 will be allocated for public housing and the Home Ownership Scheme through the lifting of a development moratorium in the southern part of Pok Fu Lam. Another 6,800 will be provided at Kai Tak under measures to increase development density by up to 20 per cent outside heavily populated districts of Kowloon and north Hong Kong Island.
Then there are the creative suggestions for development, among them building a 130-hectare "metropolis" island east of Lantau and exploring the use of rock caverns. Reclamation is a thorny issue, but given our land constraints, it cannot be discounted in waters beyond Victoria Harbour. Nor can we ignore the opportunity to develop Lantau, which will offer enormous potential for our city's growth when the bridge to Zhuhai and Macau is opened in 2016.
As Leung indicated, his plans will fundamentally change Lantau's functions and potential. For the sake of our city's future, this has to be supported, as do his housing proposals. With so much at stake and so many people in need, we have to keep an open mind to every development possibility.