Subsidised housing prices should be tied to household income, not land premiums, so as to give more families home ownership opportunities. Allowing more people to buy their own homes would ease the government’s burden of providing public rental housing – and boost the economy.
Cruise ships could serve as transitional housing for those waiting for public housing or the redevelopment of their apartments by the URA. The vessels are available at discounted rates due to the pandemic, already have many amenities and can be located near urban areas.
Proposals to repurpose quarantine centres and pockets of government land, and build a multistorey youth hostel, might seem unorthodox, but the city needs short-term housing solutions as well as long-term ones since larger projects will take a decade or more to bear fruit.
The thousands of cubicles speedily built to isolate Covid-19 patients are due to be decommissioned once the fifth wave is under control. But repurposing them to provide temporary accommodation for those awaiting public housing would have a far greater social benefit, and reduce waste and cost.
Mainland China’s approach rests on population-wide testing and a powerful big data tracing platform. Hong Kong is not measuring up. A system that uploads visitor footprints to government servers, sensors to automatically record entries and exits, and a phased approach to implementation could all help.
There was much to like in Carrie Lam’s latest policy address, but the difference between its elite and mass reception demands attention. Implementation will be key as the city government tries to balance national goals with meeting the needs of everyday Hongkongers.
With good zoning and planning, the northern New Territories can be reinvented as highly liveable areas with good work opportunities. Hong Kong could then bid farewell to its infamous cage homes and subdivided flats.
Moving the facilities on brownfields to land reclaimed west of Guishan Island would give the New Territories a much-needed facelift, while freeing up space to create a new business district, helping to balance and revitalise all of Hong Kong.
A second business hub would not only complement the plan for housing, but also create jobs, add value for property owners, ease congestion in the city’s south, and strengthen economic links with the rest of the Greater Bay Area.
Hong Kong’s chronic land shortage is at the root of most of its socio-economic problems, meaning development of New Territories North is essential for more than just housing.