Hong Kong housing

Can Starter Homes occupy part of rural land rezoned by Hong Kong developers?

City leader suggests possible move to boost plot ratio and expand affordable housing plan laid out in policy address

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 October, 2017, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 October, 2017, 11:26pm

More space could be freed for the Starter Homes scheme by raising the plot ratio on rural sites to allow private developers to build more flats, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Sunday.

She unveiled the scheme in her maiden policy address last week as a way to help middle-income residents who wanted to buy their own homes but had been priced out by the soaring market.

A pilot project in Anderson Road, Kwun Tong, would provide 1,000 affordable homes for those eligible – couples earning HK$52,000 to HK$68,000 a month, and single people on HK$26,000 to HK$34,000.

The site is part of government land that will be sold to private developers next year, with the successful bidder having to reserve a portion for the scheme and set affordable prices.

Lam told TVB’s On the Record that the government could explore ways to boost the plot ratios of land in the New Territories that had been rezoned by developers for residential use. Under the new ratio, more flats for the Starter Homes scheme could be built.

Plot ratios – the total built area of a development divided by total site area – are set to control population density and protect the quality of the living environment.

“We have seen that the plot ratios of many of these rezoned lands are very low,” Lam said, adding this differed from the city’s vertical development approach.

“We need to understand why so few flats are allowed to be built [on these sites] and if there is a way to handle the issue.”

How Hong Kong’s Starter Homes scheme compares globally

Lam said there was room to increase the plot ratio through government policies, but part of the total number of flats built should go to the Starter Homes scheme.

Strengthening infrastructure and transport networks on sites would support such projects, she said. Facilities such as district health centres – an initiative in her policy blueprint – and nursing homes for the elderly could be built if there was enough space.

But Lam said the government would not sidestep the Town Planning Board , which would determine plot ratio. She ruled out “closed-door discussions with a specific developer” and said her administration would devise a highly transparent plan.

On a separate issue, the chief executive, who said in her policy blueprint that the relaunching of political reform would require a favourable social environment, denied an “ostrich policy”.

“The fact is we have already spent 20 months not long ago [on the issue]... and the debate has greatly affected the everyday lives of people,” she said.

“I don’t feel that the majority of citizens want to start again within this short period of time.”