A survey by environmental group Green Sense suggests that only 30 per cent of respondents support land reclamation as a solution to Hong Kong’s housing crisis.
It came after Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan both voiced their support for reclamation in recent days.
Mark Mak Chi-kit, a senior research officer at Green Sense, said on Tuesday that around 40 per cent of respondents had no confidence in a consultation carried out by the government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply. They said the Task Force only provided supply-based options in its consultation document, a move which 67 per cent of respondents disagreed with, Mak said.
“This shows most citizens do not agree with Lam’s method, she is doing [the consultation] by force and shows no sign of changing. This is disappointing and regrettable,” Mak said.
Green Sense hired the Public Opinion Program at the University of Hong Kong to conduct the survey, which interviewed 504 people by phone at the end of May.
Respondents mainly preferred using brownfield land – previously developed agricultural or rural land that is now deserted – in the New Territories, with 62 per cent supporting the option. Fifty-two percent preferred policies that restrict non-local property buyers, and a reduction of one-way immigration permits.
The survey also asked respondents why they thought the waiting time for public housing was so long. Sixty-nine per cent of the respondents attributed the wait to the influx of immigrants from mainland China who hold one-way permits.
“I believe that Hong Kong citizens can already sense it: the issue is not that there’s not enough land, it’s that other policies have gone wrong,” Mak said.
Mak added that reclamation has substantial environmental impacts which should not be ignored. He raised the example of dolphins disappearing from Hong Kong waters, which meant the current environmental impact assessment system could not effectively protect the ocean.
‘Obvious land supply option’
On Tuesday Chief Executive Carrie Lam repeated her suggestion, first brought up over the weekend, that reclamation is a viable plan.
“Reclamation outside the Victoria Harbour is very obviously one of the important land supply options, and Hong Kong’s development has always been relying on reclamation over many decades,” she said.
Lam’s statement was echoed by Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan, who said last Saturday that reclamation was “fast, convenient, and cost-effective.”
Lam added that her second Policy Address – expected in October – will include more policies on increasing land supply, so as to complement short-term housing initiatives announced last Friday.
When asked whether her statement in support of reclamation would unfairly influence the result of the ongoing consultation, Lam said she and other government officials “cannot and should not avoid commenting on an issue of great urgency.”