Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has included plans for developing land in country parks in his latest policy address, citing the interests of future generations. He has also restated his proposal to develop five areas in Hong Kong, including Tung Chung.
Leung released his final policy address as chief executive on Wednesday: “The housing problem in Hong Kong boils down to land use, which is not a technical issue, but a conceptual one,” Leung said, urging the public to “think out of the box” and re-examine land use planning in a “serious, scientific and objective” manner.
He proposed developing land in country parks that is of low ecological value and sits on the edge of parks for building public housing estates, non-profit-making elderly homes and other purposes “other than real estate development.”
‘Land use problem, not land supply’
Leung added that high property prices are caused by expensive land premiums. “Most families in Hong Kong can afford the construction costs passed onto them, yet the exorbitant land premium is beyond their means,” he said. “This is not due to inadequate land supply but shortage of land zoned for housing development.”
He added that only seven per cent of land in Hong Kong is zoned for housing purposes, compared to 40 per cent taken up by country parks.
Leung said two years ago that places in country parks with lower ecological value can be used for developing housing, and sold to young people with the land premium waived.
Despite strong opposition from the public, Leung again mentioned last November that the government would be able to provide affordable housing if it could develop parts of parks, adding that the public tends to perceive country parks to be “sacred and inviolable.”
On Wednesday, Leung said it is the job of a “responsible government” to make such suggestions in order to safeguard the interests of the next generation.
Chan Kim-ching, a researcher at the Liber Research Community, criticised Leung: “CY Leung deliberately said elderly homes and public housing estates can be built on country parks – the move is basically meant to accuse us of preventing people from settling in new homes by opposing the development of country parks. Meanwhile, he is allocating land presumably to ‘foreign talent’ for building upscale housing. Shame on him.”
Meanwhile, Leung said the government is proceeding with “full steam” to propel development projects in five areas: Tung Chung, Kwu Tung North, Fanling North, Hung Shu Kiu and Yuen Long South. This is the same as Leung suggested in his policy address last year.
He estimated that the five development projects could provide close to 200,000 housing units and over 8.6 million square metres of industrial and commercial floor area between 2023 and 2038.
In comparison, last year, Leung said the projects would provide 197,000 housing units between 2016 and 2022, and about 7.8 million square metres of floor area for commercial or industrial use and nearly 240,000 job opportunities once the projects were completed.
This year, Leung said reclamation work in Tung Chung New Town Extension will begin in 2018, and the first population intake is expected in six years’ time. The project – which has been approved by the Town Planning Board – will provide nearly 50,000 flats.
He added that the government had a new compensation and rehousing package for people affected by the development projects in Kwu Tung North and Fanling North, with the first population intake expected to occur in six years.