Developer HKR urges government: allow more space to build in Discovery Bay to help ease Hong Kong’s housing shortage
Popular residential area on Lantau island launched 40 years ago has only been allowed to consist of low-to-medium rise buildings, and so far about 10.8 million sq ft of space has been developed, or some 8,000 properties
HKR International, the developer behind Discovery Bay – the popular residential complex on Hong Kong’s Lantau island – has challenged the government’s allowable land-use density on the 650-hectare site, saying much of its nearby countryside is still highly under used.
Hong Kong currently faces a chronic shortage of available land on which to build homes.
The plot ratio for Discovery Bay’s 70 million sq ft land area – equivalent to 8 per cent of the size of Hong Kong island – which equates to just 0.16 times, compared with 3.7 times on The Peak, for instance, said HKR deputy chairman and managing director Victor Cha Mou-zing.
Plot ratio is the industry term for measuring the density of building in a specific area.
“We have vast amounts of undeveloped land there (at Discovery Bay). Our infrastructure and facilities can support a higher building density, even double the existing 0.16 times,” he said.
Over the past 40 years, he said, Discovery Bay has only been allowed low- to medium-rise buildings, and so far about 10.8 million square feet has been developed – or some 8,000 properties.
“Discovery Bay could provide a short- to medium-term solution for Hong Kong’s housing shortage, if a higher plot ratio is allowed,” he said.
“But I am not talking about building 50- to 60-storey skyscrapers here.”
His firm strongly welcomes the government’s study to increase flat supply through the public-private partnership (PPP) in Discovery Bay, he added.
“We are open to any options. But Hong Kong home prices have risen to an unrealistic level.”
In June, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng yuet-ngor unveiled a slew of new policies aimed at easing the city’s housing crisis, primarily by providing several more “affordable” homes.
That blueprint included putting 4,431 affordable government flats onto the market by next February at about half their market price, as opposed to the current 30 per cent discount.
Other measures, including a tax on new flats that remain vacant, to force developers to release completed properties for sale at potentially lower prices than they had hoped, to increase supply.
Some city developers have been accused of hoarding properties, creating an artificial shortage that has caused median prices to rise for 27 consecutive months, putting many homes beyond the affordability of many buyers, especially first-time buyers.
Cha said negotiations with the government to raise the plot ratio at Yi Pak on Lantau, near the Discovery Bay Tunnel entrance, have dragged on for a staggering 16 years.
If the government allowed the firm to increase the ratio there to 0.18 times, the site could yield a total gross floor area of 1.4 million square feet, he said.
The government originally capped Discovery Bay’s population at 25,000, based on the area’s reservoir supply capacity. It currently has a population of 20,000.
“Today, water supply over land and after the opening of the Discovery Bay Tunnel means the reservoir is actually largely unused. Water supply is no longer an issue. The ferry services have also been expanded, ” he said.