Creative land use is key in face of housing shortage

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Land supply researchers say there’s no lack of land in Hong Kong. Rather, the problem is the lack of creative thinking for effective use of land.

As land supply advocates continue to urge the government to take back the golf course in Fanling for more public housing, local think tank The Lion Rock Institute came up with an alternative – building flats around it.

In a seminar held by the institute last week to discuss land supply and planning, the Institute put forward the proposal which, if put in place, can provide around 100,000 flats while only reducing the size of the golf course to 152 hectares from 170. Assuming each of the 204 buildings proposed is 60 stories high, the housing project could accommodate up to 300,000 people.

Peter Wong, Director of the Institute, said the proposal is a better use of resources as it provides more housing without compromising the city’s golf facilities.

“A lot of the land supply proposals by other groups adopt the “all or none” approach. We just need to think creatively to solve the problems,” said Wong.

Compared to other proposals by other groups that suggest resuming the whole golf course to build 13,200 flats for 100,000, the Institute’s proposal comes as more effective – and even more creative, Wong said.

Another advantage of the proposal is there is no ownership issue for golf courses, according to Wong who said private ownership is often a big obstacle for any development projects.

“Reclamation and land resumption take a long time, and Hong Kongers have no time for that,” said Wong.

He suggested expanding Fan Kam Road on top of the existing public transport facilities in the area to cope with the increasing population.

When asked if the proposal would give rise to walled buildings, he said the buildings could come in different heights and public facilities would be built between every five buildings.

Wong refuted the idea that Hong Kong does not have land for residential purposes, arguing that out of the 24 percent of the developed land, only 7 percent of it is for residential use.

Shih Wing-ching, founder of Centaline Property Agency, echoed the view that there’s no lack of land in Hong Kong as only 4 percent of it goes to urban housing.

Shih said the problem is unclear vision. The government should set a goal for average living space per person, and without a goal it’s difficult to plan.

“Using 7 percent of the land in Hong Kong for housing and increasing the plot ratio threefold would give 1,000 square feet of living space for a family,” Shih said.

He also called for developing the country parks, an idea that has been met with strong opposition from green groups.

Attendees of the seminar also made other suggestions.

Former director of the Planning Department Ling Kar-kan suggested large-scale reclamation outside the Victoria Harbour to address long-term demand for land supply, but he stressed only sites with lower ecological values should be considered.

Frederick Fung from Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood (ADPL) proposed cargo container homes to meet short-term housing demand.

With the underprivileged living in harsh conditions in mind, Fung called for building temporary homes at government vacant sites that involve fewer stakeholders to build homes faster. He also urged more public housing to be built instead of the private ones as there is an imbalance now.

Meanwhile, the task force on land supply appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam will hold a five-month public consultation from April 15 for people to vote for their preferred option out of the 18 proposals.


Disclosure: The Editor in Chief of Harbour Times is a director of The Lion Rock Institute.

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