It sounds too good to be true when a city with acute housing shortage suddenly gets free land from a property developer to build subsidised flats. Coming on the heels of commentaries by state media linking the ongoing unrest with public outrage over unaffordable housing and a possible move by the government to seize private land for housing development, scepticism and speculation is bound to be rife. Whatever the motive, the initiative, when properly implemented, is set to benefit people with genuine housing needs. There were precedents of land donation by developers. What set New World Development’s bid apart is the scale – 3 million sq ft of farmland, or about one-fifth of its 17 million sq ft of farmland reserves across the New Territories. Three plots of land totalling 28,000 sq ft next to the Tin Shui Wai train station have already been earmarked for low-cost housing run by non-profit organisation Light Be. The project aims to build 100 units of 300 sq ft by 2022 to benefit a total of 10,000 people in the longer term. Welcoming as it is, charitable housing initiatives by developers are not always well received by the community. This owes much to developers’ role in contributing to high property prices and the oft-cited worries over possible collusion with the government. That explains the scepticism even when New World Development said the move was to demonstrate its social responsibility rather than in relation to calls by a Beijing-friendly party to invoke the land resumption ordinance to help boost land supply. It is hard not to associate the recent gestures with the prevailing political circumstances. There appears to be concerted efforts in some quarters to try shift the focus from the raging protest violence to housing and other perceived contributing factors to the turmoil. And not surprisingly, developers are under growing pressure to respond. Politics of property: is Hong Kong’s housing system too lucrative to fall? Whatever the underlying reasons, the donation is a positive step in answering the city’s quest for affordable housing. The challenge requires cross-sector efforts and it is good that more developers have responded. But as acknowledged by the government, the number of flats produced could hardly satisfy the existing demand. There are also practical issues to address. The development of housing on farmland requires rezoning of land use. The usage of the remaining land remains unclear at this stage. There also needs to be a well-established mechanism against collusion and conflict of interests. With the protests still raging, it remains unclear whether the government can win the battle in the short-run. But affordable housing is certainly a crusade that requires long-term strategy and efforts. The government must not shy away from uniting all sectors to tackle the housing conundrum.