Hong Kong housing

Land supply options report to be driven by public views, not what Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam wants, task force chief says

While officials may state their own preferences, these would not override final submission at end of consultation exercise, he adds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 1:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 8:35pm

The Hong Kong leader’s preference on how to increase the city’s land supply would not override the results of a public consultation under way to ease the local housing crisis, the head of a special panel examining the issue said on Thursday.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply, was responding to criticism that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had pre-empted the body’s public engagement exercise after she repeatedly signalled a preference for reclamation.

“Whether it’s the chief executive or government officials, they will also have their own views,” he said on a radio programme on Thursday. “But it is not possible for them to override the final report.”

Wong also said his panel would find it hard-pressed to submit any meaningful preliminary findings to Lam before October, despite her previously stating the body would do so before she delivers her policy address that month.

He added it would be premature to offer an objective analysis of what the public consensus was on all 18 possible land supply options to ease the city’s housing crisis.

“Of course we have questionnaire results and data on hand, but going into September, we don’t really have quantitative analysis available,” Wong said, referring to when the consultation ends. “It can’t be considered very objective.”

“It’s hard to foresee whether, say, in the last month up to September 26, views could suddenly change at the last minute.”

Wong said no one could override the final consultation results, which are to be analysed and published in a report later in the year.

The task force chairman said if a discrepancy existed between what the government wants and what the study shows, he believed “priority should be given” to what most residents say they want.

The panel members had taken part in dozens of public engagement events over the last two months and listened to many views, he added.

“If it’s possible to conjure up a clear view of the direction this is going, then we can communicate some of this.”

Some options might enjoy a degree of support, Wong continued, but the nature of qualitative responses meant they could come with conditions and not be as straightforward as simply “supporting or opposing”.

“If someone supports reclamation, he or she might condition that support on the marine ecosystem being protected,” he said.

Area the size of Sha Tin could be reclaimed for Hong Kong housing, minister says

Some options did not yet indicate clear majority support among the public, he added, while others had barely sparked interest.

On Sunday, Lam said land supply would be a key point of her policy address and described reclamation as an “important” option. She followed those comments on Wednesday by asserting reclamation seemed to be “unavoidable” in the long run.

Wong said the chief executive had indicated to the task force she held an opinion on the land issue that she would share with the media and that she would touch upon it during her policy address also.