Surveyors call for cheap land to be provided for homes for the elderly

Surveyors' body also calls for container terminal to be redeveloped to ease city's housing shortage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 5:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 6:18pm

Hong Kong property surveyors have called on the government to provide cheap land for the construction of affordable rental homes for the city's growing elderly population.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Hong Kong, representing 6,000 industry practitioners in the city, will issue the call as part of its submission to chief executive Leung Chun-ying's office next week in response to the 2014 consultation on the policy address.

The consultation closes on January 2 and Leung will deliver his policy address on January 15.

Albert So, chairman of the Hong Kong valuation, planning and development professional group committee at RICS, said the institution believed land should be set aside in the northeastern New Territories for building rental homes for the elderly, and the government could speed up the development of such homes by granting land to private developers at discounted prices.

The purpose-built housing estates could then be operated by non-governmental or religious organisations.

"We understand it is difficult to allocate land in urban areas. Therefore, land in the northeastern New Territories and even on Lantau Island can be considered."

So said a number of old public housing estates in urban areas that needed refurbishment, such as a 30-year-old estate in Wong Tai Sin, could be turned into elderly-friendly homes.

"We are seeing some public housing units being occupied by old couples as their children move out. By upgrading old estates into elderly-friendly homes old people can continue to live in the familiar surroundings of their own homes rather than move," said So, who is the founder of Albert So Surveyors.

The homes could be built to a universal design, he said, that would provide barrier-free access and special facilities such as extra-wide doorways that can accommodate wheelchairs and residential corridors equipped with handrails on both sides to enhance mobility and safety.

Separately, RICS also proposed that the Kwai Chung container terminal be considered as a development location to ease the housing shortage.

Since the port is losing its competitiveness to rivals in southern China, the government should consider whether there is a need to relocate the terminals to another area, said So.

The site was big enough to build a new town, he said, citing the examples of large housing estates such as Taikoo Shing in Quarry Bay, which was built on the site of Taikoo dockyard after it was relocated to Tsing Yi in the early 1970s, and Whampoa Gardens, which was completed in 1991 on the site of the former Whampoa dockyard.

"It is only a concept. It will take about 20 years to complete the transformation if the proposal gets off the ground," he said.