The housing minister has confirmed talks are under way with property tycoon Lee Shau-kee over his offer to donate farmland to build affordable housing.
"Mr Lee has expressed his wish to help young people with their housing needs. Indeed, we have been in contact with him and the discussions are ongoing," Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said on a radio programme yesterday. An announcement would be made when the details were finalised, the secretary for transport and housing said.
Cheung said the offer was unprecedented: "No developer has donated land to the government like this. If an individual is really willing to donate, and the land released fits the urban planning requirements for housing use, the government should consider it."
The housing secretary's remarks came a day after a Chinese-language newspaper reported details of the offer by Lee, chairman of Henderson Land Development.
The report said the government had selected seven sites, most in the northeastern New Territories, from a list Lee had presented. It said Lee aimed to help deliver 10,000 homes for first-time buyers.
Cheung would not disclose any details but said parts of the report were "speculation", adding: "The government will deal with the matter in accordance with the established public housing policy under the Housing Authority and the Housing Society."
Lee first publicly raised the idea in January, saying he would be willing to build homes of 300 square feet each on his company's plots in the New Territories and price them at HK$1 million each for sale to first-time buyers. In return, the government should exempt him from paying the premium for changing the use of the land.
A Henderson spokeswoman said yesterday Lee had agreed with the government's counteroffer that he donate the land for the government to build the flats.
Under the public housing policy, families earning no more than HK$40,000 a month are eligible to buy subsidised homes. Prices of the flats are determined by how much the applicants can afford.
Henderson's land bank in the New Territories totals about 42.4 million square feet as of June last year - making it the largest holding among all developers in Hong Kong. About 9.1 million square feet of its holdings are in Hung Shiu Kiu in the western New Territories, with some in the northeast - areas identified by the government a decade ago as being appropriate for development.
New World Development chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun, a backer of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, has also indicated he is willing to donate land.