Government’s housing vision for Hong Kong not offering better quality of life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 4:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 11:13pm

As the saying goes, when you are in a hole, stop digging. Allen Fung has dug his boss, Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, into a deeper hole by obfuscating the issue (“Population cannot be the sole criteria”, November 10), instead of addressing the three specific points in my letter (“Development chief’s selective use of facts on housing supply”, October 27).

It is laughable to claim the government plans to give us all more living space when its recently published “vision” notes that in the next 30 years, the average public flat size will remain the same as today: 538 sq ft in public housing, including public rental housing and subsidised homes (“Hong Kong 2030 Plus: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030”, page 22).

If you are lucky enough to live in private housing, the average flat size will increase by only 4 per cent, assuming the government has the guts to tell developers to build larger flats; currently they are flooding the market with pint-size, 180 sq ft flats.

Even if the average flat in private housing grows by 4 per cent, you will have an extra 18 sq ft in the average flat size of 470 sq ft. You should be able to squeeze in another coffee table, greatly enhancing your quality of life.

If the government builds the East Lantau Metropolis, reclaiming land around two islands east of Lantau and linking them to south Lantau at a cost of more than HK$400 billion by reclaiming 1,000 hectares of land connected by 29km of bridges and tunnels, you will live in a new town that has up to 70,000 people per sq km. Hong Kong’s most congested district, Kwun Tong, now has 57,250 people per sq km.

The need for “decanting” space to accommodate people moving out of ageing housing is another myth. The government cites the need to replace 258,000 units of aged private housing. But this does not need to be done in one fell swoop. Urban regeneration is a gradual process, which is the current practice anyway.

The government itself acknowledges that only 1,900 units can be realistically rebuilt in a year, based on 2010-2014 experience. Good maintenance also greatly extends the life of buildings. So old housing blocks will be demolished and new ones built in their place, meaning no net increase in housing requirements.

Planning and development is a serious business affecting people’s lives, not smoke and mirrors.

Tom Yam, Lantau