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Hong Kong housing

Brownfield site development and reclamation are two of public’s most favoured options for boosting Hong Kong land supply, task force chief says

Stanley Wong ‘heard very few voices’ against developing brownfield sites while reclamation is a reasonable option for most people

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 September, 2018, 6:29pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 September, 2018, 10:55pm

Developing Hong Kong’s brownfield sites and nearshore reclamation are two of the options most supported by the public to tackle the city’s land shortage, the head of the government-appointed land supply task force said on Sunday.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the 30-member Task Force on Land Supply, said that was his personal view after his body held about 140 public engagement exercises in the past four months over 18 options to boost land supply.

“It was very clear that a lot of people were supportive of developing brownfield sites. I have heard very few voices against this,” he said in a phone interview.

Brownfield sites are degraded agricultural land occupied by businesses like car parks or recycling yards.

“On reclamation, my observation was that, in general, the public found it an acceptable option. But then of course, there were those who were against it, or have reservations about it.”

The task force, set up in September last year, drew up 18 options and divided them into three categories based on the amount of time it would take to produce land.

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The options include developing brownfield sites and tapping agricultural reserves of private developers, which will be able to provide land in about a decade’s time. Nearshore reclamation outside Victoria Harbour and developing the fringes of country parks will take 10 to 30 years to see fruition.

The public consultation started in April and ends on September 26.

Wong’s remarks came as home prices in Hong Kong’s secondary market rose for the 28th consecutive month in July, according to data from the Rating and Valuation Department released on Friday.

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In a television talk show on Sunday, Wong said that in the short to medium term, about 110 hectares of the city’s 760 hectares of brownfield areas can be released. In the medium to long term, with more time, another 220 hectares of such areas can be released, he added on the TVB programme.

On reclamation, he said: “Naturally, those who care about the environment and the ecosystem are against it. This is clear. At the same time, reclamation could also harm the fishermen’s business.”

But he added that different professional groups and business associations supported this option.

The task force will meet later this month and submit a report of the members’ preliminary observations to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who delivers her policy address next month.

He expected the task force to recommend three to four options in its report to Lam.

In July, with the public consultation ongoing, Lam said she “dared” to say the city needed to reclaim land.

Housing minister Frank Chan Fan has also said an area the size of Sha Tin could be added to Hong Kong if the government decides to go ahead with reclamation to expand land supply. His comments drew a backlash from green groups, who warned that the environmental impact of such a large-scale reclamation could not be underestimated.

Separately, speaking on an RTHK radio programme on Sunday, government adviser Bernard Chan supported developing brownfield sites.

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But the convenor of the Executive Council, Lam’s cabinet, said Hong Kong needed to consider large-scale reclamation to solve the long-term land supply issue.

“I recently appeared at a conference organised by the Our Hong Kong Foundation proposing this sort of vision. That particular proposal was for a 2,200-hectare artificial island east of Lantau, which could house a million people,” Chan said.

“This concept offers a way for Hong Kong to get its hands on a large amount of new land. This new land could be in one massive parcel, or several smaller ones. But it would not be hundreds of tiny scattered lots. And it would have just one owner – namely, the Hong Kong government.”

If the government adopted this option, Chan added, officials would have full control of flat sizes and pricing, among others.

“It means we could, at last, offer ordinary young Hong Kong people a hope of raising a family in a decent-quality environment that they can afford,” Chan said.