Hong Kong housing

Act now to convince people you’re serious about land supply issue, top government adviser tells Hong Kong’s leader

  • Stanley Wong, chairman of Task Force on Land Supply, urges Chief Executive Carrie Lam to issue blueprint by next month
  • In interview, Wong also dismissed opposition of young people to some of his recommendations
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2019, 4:52pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2019, 10:51pm

Hong Kong officials must come up with a blueprint by February to increase land supply if they truly think that the city’s land shortage is an urgent issue, according to a top government adviser.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply, also said that despite some young people’s opposition and worries, the city needs to reclaim land to solve its housing shortage.

“The users of the reclaimed land include our next generation … as well as the whole of society,” Wong said. “If we only focus on the concern of users … does it mean that we only need to listen to the golfers’ opinion when deciding how to use their land?”

The task force unveiled its long-awaited recommendations on ramping up land supply in space-starved Hong Kong on December 31, citing “considerable” public support for eight options such as massive reclamation, using part of the Fanling golf course for building homes, and a public-private partnership in using some 1,000 hectares of farmland owned by big developers.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said she would study the recommendations in detail and consider the way forward.

But Wong urged her to come up with a detailed response as soon as possible.

“The task force expects a substantial response before our term expires in February. For example, [officials should explain] whether they are accepting all our recommendations,” he said on a pre-recorded interview on TVB on Sunday.

“There should also be some ‘road maps’ for those much-discussed proposals that have bigger potentials … as well as [timetables] for the recommendations that will be worked on this year.”

Wong added that while an official response might not put an end to debates in society, it would at least remind the public that land shortage is the government’s priority.

“If the administration can digest our report and respond sooner, it would show that the issue is an urgent one,” he said.

On land reclamation, the task force concluded that about 60 per cent of the public expressed support for building a 1,000-hectare metropolis to the east of Lantau Island.

But an analysis of written and verbal opinions showed that an overwhelming 92 per cent were negative towards the option. While officials argued that land reclamation would solve young people’s housing problems, some young activists said it would be too costly.

Asked if the task force should have paid more attention to the voice of young people, who will be using the reclaimed land, Wong said: “It was more important to look at the mainstream opinion of the whole of society.”

Speaking on an RTHK programme on Sunday, Chan Kim-ching, founder of the Liber Research Community, questioned why the task force backed a public-private partnership proposal, instead of urging the government to use the Lands Resumption Ordinance to take back sites to build public housing.

But Wong said there was no contradiction between the two options. “We were just exploring options for sites that were not suitable for land resumption,” he said.

Under the ordinance, the government can only resume private land for development after establishing a “public purpose”. It means land plots resumed under the mechanism cannot be used for commercial or private residential development.

Official also argued previously that rather than taking away private developers’ land, it is the government’s job to provide incentives and encourage private development projects.