Hong Kong’s land supply consultation: two questions to consider
First is the question mark on the population targets adopted in calculating the projected land needs. The figure being used is 9 million, taken from Hong Kong 2030 Plus, which has never been substantiated. In 2016, the professionals in the Census and Statistics Department projected our peak population to be 8.22 million in 2043, and thereafter to gradually decline, in line with our ageing population trend. Surely this is a much safer target to be aiming for?
Accordingly, the study is aiming to house 780,000 more people than is likely to be necessary. Adopting an average household size of 2.8, that translates into an over-provision of some 278,500 flats.
Secondly, there is broad agreement that the New Development Areas (NDAs) should, as a priority, be the main focus of land supply, in the same way that the new towns were in the 1970s-90s. However, closer examination of the residential plot ratios being proposed in the NDAs shows that they are all well below the maximum figure of 6.5 allowed under the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines.
A simple study shows that by going up to the maximum permitted figure, the number of new flats in Hung Shui Kiu, Kwu Tung North, Fanling North, Kwu Tung South and Tung Chung West can be increased from 180,750 to 240,800 – an increase of some 33 per cent or 60,000 units.
Hong Kong makes HK$550 million pledge to better compensate villagers forced to make way for new towns
Given the high fixed costs of land acquisition, clearance and relocation, followed by the site formation and infrastructure provision for these NDA sites, surely the government, with its present predicament of a housing shortage, has a strong moral responsibility to maximise the use of these new NDA lands to ensure that we, the taxpayers, get the best value for our money and that the housing problem is properly addressed – without the need to unnecessarily despoil country parks, golf courses or other recreational land.
These are a couple of the fundamental issues that need to be raised as part of this consultation.
Roger Nissim, adjunct professor, real estate and construction, HKU; member, Citizens Task Force on Land Resources