Govt admits to land shortage in public housing plan
The Hong Kong government admitted it has encountered a shortage of land for the construction of 44,000 public housing units, part of its 10-year supply target set two years ago, due to difficulties in acquiring land.
This is the second time the government scaled down its public housing supply target after it was set at 280,000 in Chief Executive Leung Chunying’s second Policy Address in 2014. Last year, the government changed the goal to 255,000 units due to insufficient land supply and uncooperative local communities.
Briefing the media with the annual progress in executing the city’s long-term housing strategy, Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the government could only build 236,000 public housing units by 2027 — provided all the procedures were done on schedule.
The revision, Cheung explained, was mainly due to the increasing difficulties in finding suitable land for building public housing. He added that the process had become more lengthy and complicated as it involved multiple public consultations, negotiations with different stakeholders and legal disputes.
But the government was determined to give the highest priority to the public’s wishes when dealing with these conflicts, Cheung said.
He also said the government would stick to last year’s total target of providing 460,000 units in the next decade. If completed on schedule, it will meet the city’s projected demand of 457,000 units by 2027.
Cheung said the gap was alarming as demand for public housing had been constantly increasing in the past four years. According to Housing Authority statistics, the number of public housing applicants has gone up 45.6 percent since 2012.
Cheung emphasized that the key to solving the housing supply issue is still finding sufficient land supply. He, therefore, called for different sectors of society to support the government’s efforts in identifying land.
To address the scarcity in the short term, the government will combat tenancy abuses in public housing estates, such as tightening the policy for welloff tenants. And it will stabilize the private housing market by suppressing speculative and investment demand, according to Cheung.
The report noted that the government would continue to adopt multi-pronged methods to expand public housing supply. These include increasing development intensity by 20 percent in less populated areas, building on brownfield sites, reclamations outside the Victoria Harbour, as well as rock caverns and underground developments.
Meanwhile, the projects including the Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and Hung Shui Kiu New Development Areas, the Tung Chung New Town Extension, as well as the Yuen Long South development will provide land for residential developments in the latter part of the 10-year period, Cheung said.
The report noted that in the five-year period from 2016-17 to 2020-21, the total public housing supply will be about 945,000.
The projection of private residential supply stood at about 93,000 units in the coming three to four years — up from the government’s 2012 forecast of 65,000.