Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong’s land shortage worse than predicted, officials say

Development Bureau and Planning Department say current predicted shortfall of 1,200 hectares does not account for a number of factors

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 May, 2018, 7:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 May, 2018, 7:32am

Hong Kong’s land shortage over the next three decades will be even worse than previously thought, government officials said on Thursday.

The Development Bureau and Planning Department said the current predicted shortfall of 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) was the baseline estimate and did not take into account a number of factors.

“Our estimate was based on the best information given at the time when we were preparing the 2030 Plus blueprint in 2015 and 2016,” a Planning Department spokeswoman said, referring to the blueprint that outlines the city’s planning and development strategy beyond 2030. 

“It does not include any of the government’s newest policies or areas still under study, as well as land demands such as those in the hotel and retail sectors, which tend to fluctuate with the market. There’s no way for us to accurately project those figures, but we can imagine that we will only need more land and not less,” she said.

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According to the government’s planning blueprint for the next 30 years, Hong Kong requires 4,800 hectares of land. Authorities have already identified 3,600 hectares of land, which means the city faces a shortfall of 1,200 hectares – equivalent to 342 Taikoo Shing estates.

Of the 1,200-hectare shortfall, some 230 hectares were allocated for housing, 720 hectares for government, institutional and community facilities and transport infrastructure, and 256 hectares for economic needs, such as offices and commercial and industrial space.

Both the Task Force on Land Supply, a government-appointed committee, and experts have criticised the government for underestimating the shortage as they do not take into account extra demand for health facilities for the city’s ageing population and bigger flats to improve quality of life. 

A Development Bureau spokeswoman said it was revising its figures and that they would be ready by the end of the year, but did not specify how much worse the shortage would be as that was still being calculated.

The bureau spokeswoman agreed with the task force, which said that the estimates fell on the conservative side.

“Their conclusions are reasonable,” she said. “If the demand increases, and if on the supply side new development area projects are delayed, then the shortage could be more than 1,200 hectares,” she said.

The Our Hong Kong Foundation, a think tank founded by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, estimated that Hong Kong would need 9,000 hectares over the next 30 years, instead of the planned 4,800, if the numbers account for increasing per-capita living space as well as the need for other facilities. 

However, Chan Kim-ching, founder of non-governmental group Liber Research Community, said he believed the government had instead overestimated the demand for land. 

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Citing the government’s long-term blueprint, Chan said the estimation was based on a population of 9 million with a lower-than-usual development density.

But he said the Census and Statistics Department projected the city’s population would peak at 8.2 million in 2043 and then drop to 7.7 million by 2066.

“If they call this an underestimate, it seems to me like they want the public to think that there is not enough land and we should find more land,” he said.

He added that more land did not mean Hongkongers could live in bigger spaces, as long as the government still approves the construction of the city’s notorious nano flats or micro flats. 

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao