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Hong Kong housing

Building on Fanling golf course shortlisted as option to ease Hong Kong housing crunch

  • Option preferred ‘because the housing shortage is serious and the site is close to the railway network’, says task force source
  • Hong Kong Golf Club says course should be preserved, ‘to ensure the sustainable development of golf and sports’
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 11:25pm

Part of an exclusive golf course in northern Hong Kong could be dug up and used for housing, after official advisers put it among eight preferred options for easing a land supply crunch.

Development at the Fanling site, home to the Hong Kong Golf Club, is one of the most controversial options among 18 already floated during a five-month public consultation which ended in September. It sparked fierce opposition from the club, as well as from local business and political leaders.

“It was a unanimous decision to redevelop part of the golf course,” a source at the land supply task force said. “It is because the housing shortage is serious and the site is close to the railway network.”

The task force was set up by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to identify at least 1,200 hectares of land which could be built on, boosting supply in the world’s priciest property market.

The source said that, based on public consultation findings, it had selected eight preferred land options, which in total would free up about 3,000 hectares. Of that, only about 300 hectares would be available within eight years.

“This is assuming Lam would accept the task force’s recommendations,” the source said.

Three of the eight recommendations are short-term options providing 300 hectares of land. They include building on brownfield sites, using private farmland, and using the 32-hectare old course at the 170-hectare Fanling site.

A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Golf Club said the course should be preserved, “to ensure the sustainable development of golf and sports”.

Task Force chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai neither confirmed nor denied the findings, saying only that the panel was still finalising its report.

“While we have been able to at least agree in principle, or approve in principle, the skeleton and content as well as recommendations of our report, we have still to finalise the professional editing,” Wong said.

The task force would probably submit the report to the government on December 28 or 31, and planned to make it public the same day, he said. It would recommend the government simultaneously pursue all the options which got majority public support, as the city “does not have the luxury of time”, he added.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who has backed using the entire course for housing, said he welcomed the task force’s recommendations, but expressed concern that they would not go far enough.

“Nothing has been said about the remaining 140 hectares,” Wan said.

Is reclamation the way to regain control of land from developers?

“All 172 hectares of the golf course should be taken back by the government when its land lease expires in 2020. That’s the only way the government can be answerable to the general public.”

Long-term options that the task force would recommend included reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, massive reclamation to the east of Lantau Island, developing more new towns in the New Territories, redeveloping the cargo terminal in Tuen Mun, and using underground space.

All 172 hectares of the golf course should be taken back by the government when its land lease expires in 2020. That’s the only way the government can be answerable to the general public
Andrew Wan, lawmaker

All of the above options were said to have gained majority support during the public consultation.

Brownfield sites – specifically, damaged New Territories farmland being used as container yards and open storage – were said to be the most popular target. Of at least 2,500 people who completed the consultation’s phone questionnaire, more than 80 per cent supported that option.

Brian Wong Shiu-hung, a member of Liber Research Community, a local NGO focused on land and development research, said such figures signalled “overwhelming support” for developing brownfield sites.

He urged the government to prioritise that option, and formulate a “brownfield first” policy.

Building homes in country parks received the least support, consultation findings showed.

In total, the task force collected about 65,000 written opinions and 28,000 online and physical questionnaires, as well as doing about 3,000 phone interviews, during the consultation.

Stanley Wong said he hoped the public would look at the report as a whole, and not just at the numbers.

“The report will not just be a simple numerical report of how many per cent support which option ... this is a much more holistic, meaningful, and comprehensive resolution of the [land shortage] problem that has been bothering Hong Kong for quite some time,” he said.