Policy slant towards housing 'infringing the rights of developers'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 4:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 4:49am

Private property rights are being infringed by the government's planning skewed towards housing, property analysts say.

The concerns centre on the Town Planning Board's track record over the past 12 months in decisions that fuel perceptions that housing policy is given disproportionate weight in planning considerations.

Developers are free to seek to have land they own put to other uses, such as office development, even if such sites have been zoned residential. But they must gain support from the Planning Department and then approval from the Town Planning Board.

But the board has rejected seven commercial projects in the past year on the grounds they would affect the city's housing supply.

"It infringes private property rights if the authority rejects these sites suitable for commercial development to meet the government housing policy," said Chau Kwong-wing, the chair professor at the University of Hong Kong's department of real estate and construction.

The board should focus on the impact on the neighbourhood when they considered an application, Chau said, adding that overall housing policy should not be the major consideration.

"Policy stability is very important. Landlords are losing their property rights if developers are unable to enjoy the flexibility in town planning they had before."

One of the cases involved Angela Leong On-kei, casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun's fourth wife, who applied to build a 25-storey office building at 101-102 Wan Chai Road in April. Two office and residential buildings with shops had been on the site, and it is surrounded by commercial buildings. Yet the planning board rejected the application.

The board cited a shortage of residential land in saying approval of a commercial development would set a bad precedent for potential redevelopment of nearby office buildings.

Surveyor Albert So Chun-hin said the government should trust market forces.

"Developers are sensitive to market demand," So said. "Even if the government wants to increase housing supply, some sites in high-density areas such as Mong Kok with population problems are not suitable for residential development."