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Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong government accused of lying to public over how many houses could be built on exclusive golf course

Officials submit report envisaging low-density housing on site of exclusive club, but opponents say that gives a misleadingly low estimate

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 7:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 11:21am

The Hong Kong government has been accused of “deliberately misleading the public” by lowballing the number of homes that could be built on an exclusive golf course in Fanling, with debate on the proposal set to restart on Tuesday.

The administration has conspicuously deviated from usual practice by not offering a clear stance on the proposal in its latest submission, as the Hong Kong Golf Club – which runs the course in question – stepped up its lobbying effort to scupper the plan.

In its latest paper submitted to the Task Force on Land Supply ahead of its meeting on Tuesday, the government has cited a consultancy report which floats two options for developing the course: to fully develop all 170 hectares and build 13,000 flats; and partially developing the site to build 5,000 to 6,000 flats.

But a source on the task force said the consultants had assumed half of the land under the partially developed plan would be reserved for low-density housing, meaning the real potential for building homes could be higher than the report stated.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, chief executive of environmental group Green Sense and a long-time proponent of developing the golf course, said it was unreasonable to make an estimate based on a low-density housing plan.

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“What Hong Kong seriously needs is the supply of affordable flats for young couples who have a monthly family income of around HK$30,000, not low-density houses,” he said.

Democratic Party legislator Andrew Wan Siu-kin called the estimates “absurd”.

How could a 170 hectare golf course only be able to provide 13,000 flats? This is totally absurd
Andrew Wan, Democratic Party

He cited the adjacent Ching Ho Estate, which covers 5 per cent of the land that the golf course does, but has 7,200 public flats housing 20,000 people.

“How could a 170 hectare golf course only be able to provide 13,000 flats? This is totally absurd,” Wan said.

Wan accused the government of deliberately lying to the public by exaggerating the public usage of the golf course and underplaying the benefits of developing the site for housing.

He also criticised officials, saying they were hiding behind the consultants’ report and not offering their views on the development plans in the latest submission.

“But by adopting the report, it already has implied the government has endorsed its view,” he said.

The government did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday night.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor appointed the Task Force on Land Supply last year, to find ways to boost the amount of land for building on and help ease the city’s housing crisis.

Watch: Explaining Hong Kong’s housing crisis

The government has pushed back discussions on whether to build on the golf course twice in the past month as the debate heated up, sparking questions over whether officials have conflicting views on the matter.

The Post earlier reported that at least two members of the task force – vice-chair Greg Wong Chak-yan and Anthony Wu Ting-yuk – are club members.

The Home Affairs Bureau is in the process of reviewing 67 private recreational leases, involving 400 hectares of land, for development potential. The golf course is leased to the Hong Kong Golf Club until August 2020.

The source said the government had listed 27 private recreational sites leased to private sports clubs, but most of the plots were too small for housing and the golf course was the only feasible option.