Hong Kong housing

Housing minister not keen to bulldoze Hong Kong golf course to build flats

City needs ‘social diversity’, says Frank Chan Fan, comparing activists’ proposal to redevelop the site in Fanling to building homes on football fields.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 11:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 11:26am

Hong Kong’s housing minister expressed reservations about tearing down a golf course in rural Fanling to build flats, saying the city needed to maintain its “social diversity”.

But Frank Chan Fan agreed with developing land on the edge of country parks if they have low ecological value.

The secretary for transport and housing told a television station on Tuesday that home prices in Hong Kong were beyond the reach of many residents and he himself would not consider buying now either.

He stressed that the long term solution was to increase supply of housing land.

Asked if the government would adopt some activists’ suggestions to develop the Fanling golf course for housing, Chan said: “We have to appreciate the need to have a balanced social diversity … There are not many golf courses in Hong Kong. Many Hong Kong people like playing golf. What if we tear down football fields to build flats?

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“Different people have different interests. We need to have mutual understanding and respect.”

The golf course covers some 170 hectares and is managed by the elite Hong Kong Golf Club. Some activists who oppose the development of the northeastern New Territories have been asking the authorities to redevelop the golf course for housing instead. The opposition Democratic Party previously estimated the site could be used to build as many as 90,000 public units.

In Tuesday’s interview, that was broadcast live on the news outlet’s Facebook, Chan also defended the Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor administration’s so-called home ownership oriented housing policy.

Lam put the focus on property ownership in her first policy address delivered two weeks ago, introducing a range of measures to encourage public housing tenants to buy subsidised homes and become property owners.

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Chan cited Singapore as an example, where 90 per cent of households own their own homes, and said a society where the home ownership rate is high tended to be more harmonious. “When people own their homes, they have a greater sense of belonging. They would care more about the community and take more part in community [affairs].”

In Hong Kong, the home ownership rate is about 50 per cent. But Chan stressed that the government was not encouraging people to buy flats, saying buying or not was a “personal choice”.

Asked about his choice, Chan, who does not own any property, said: “I will hold a wait-and-see attitude. Flat prices are really beyond many people’s affordability. Under this circumstance, I am not sure whether it is the right time to buy.”