Despite long queues for public housing and a shortage of land, 24 plots of land originally reserved for public housing were returned to the government between 2001 and 2013 and eventually sold to developers or converted to other uses.
A report released by the Legislative Council Public Accounts Committee yesterday - based on the Director of Audit's report released in April - expressed "grave concern and alarm" over the government's "wavering housing policy".
"We criticise the decision, especially when the need for public housing is so great," said committee member Alan Leong Ka-kit.
According to the audit report, the 24 public housing redevelopment sites were returned to the government for "other uses to tie in with local development needs" and to "fully utilise the economic benefits of individual prime sites".
However, the report also stated that the sites were already formed and primed for immediate public housing construction.
Despite the government's pledge to retain sites created by the demolition of old public housing estates, the Housing Authority still returned three sites to the government in 2013, the report said.
Leong said the committee also criticised the fact that the government still has not identified sufficient sites to reach the public housing production target of 200,000 flats by 2022. Land for 179,000 flats has been identified, but the government was short by 21,000.
"The housing problem of the underprivileged has not been adequately addressed as it should have been, due to the failures of the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Housing Department to secure sufficient land for public housing development," said Abraham Razack, chairman of the committee.
The secretary for development stated in public hearings before the report was published that the decisions were made due to a "host of factors", and the government pledged to provide sufficient land in return to meet production targets.
The Housing Authority also spent around HK$209 million from 2011 to 2013 on site formation and reclamation of land that was ultimately returned to the government, and development costs were written off.
The committee's report also expressed concern about the slow rate of building new public housing, and echoed the audit report's call for a higher 10-year target of 470,000 flats for new public and private housing.