Hong Kong housing

Housing boost: Hong Kong’s Kai Tak development area to get 11,000 additional private flats

Development minister Paul Chan reveals ambitious goal to boost supply of private housing at old airport site, but public housing target set to be missed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 11:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2016, 12:58am

The number of residential flats to be built at Hong Kong’s biggest prime urban site, Kai Tak, will be increased by half to 44,500 in an ambitious government plan to meet its housing targets, the city’s development chief revealed ­on Tuesday.

But in an exclusive interview with the Post, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po conceded that the government was likely to miss its 2025-26 targets for public housing, which still faced a 25,000-unit deficit.

The revamped Kai Tak plan, involving 29 sites, is expected to add about 11,000 units to the stock of mostly private residential flats at the 328-hectare site that once housed the city’s airport.

This would be partially achieved by increasing development density by 20 per cent and moving sites around, according to Chan.

“We will review the original zoning and assess whether some of the hotel sites can be changed to residential use,” he added.

The original plan, floated in the 1990s, was to build about 29,000 flats, but this was increased by 4,500 during a second review.

“Adding more than 10,000 flats in the middle of the city is a very difficult [task],” Chan said. “The fact we can house more people in such a convenient space, without affecting the environment, is great.”

He stressed there would be no change to the theme and planning principles for Kai Tak, and neither would the total area of space reserved for public use be compromised.

The amount of commercial and office space will be increased by another 33,000 square metres.

While Chan gave no specific reason as to why hotels are being targeted, the policy comes against the backdrop of ailing tourist numbers. The decline in mainland tourists, who make up three-quarters of the city’s total visitor numbers, was reversed only in July after a 13-month downturn.

A district consultation will be launched later this year with the first flats expected to be released in the market in the first quarter of 2018.

Former Town Planning Board vice-chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said increasing the number of flats would be feasible as long as the quality of living was not compromised.

“There is actually enough public open area for the benefit of the residents within the Kai Tak area, therefore raising density around these areas could be one of the options,” Wong said, referring to sites reserved for building a major stadium and other sports facilities.

Chan was also bullish on meeting private housing supply targets – 180,000 units by 2025-26 – but he admitted that about a tenth of the targeted 280,000 public sector flats would be delayed.

Slated for rezoning are 192 plots of land across Hong Kong – including 70 greenbelt sites – that could provide 170,000 units.

Chan said 91 of the plots had been successfully rezoned, three were rejected and 17 were in the process of being rezoned, but district-level opposition against rezoning remained a challenge.

He ruled out the possibility of rezoning greenbelt sites to make up for the shortage, because such a controversial move “will not make the problem easier”.

Chan said the targets could be held back by the current shortage of construction workers.