27 May 2019
The planning application for a development site in Yau Tong was first approved in 1998, but the residential project has yet to materialize. Photo: HKEJ
The planning application for a development site in Yau Tong was first approved in 1998, but the residential project has yet to materialize. Photo: HKEJ

Developers sitting on hoard of 100,000 homes: HKU report

Hong Kong developers are sitting on as many as 100,000 homes built in the past quarter century, taking their time to bring them to market, a University of Hong Kong study shows.

Only 45 percent of the residential projects proposed in the Comprehensive Development Area (CDA) zones between 1990 and 2014 have been completed and occupied, Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday, citing the study by HKU’s department of real estate and construction.

The two-year study found that 355 projects applied for CDA zoning from Jan. 1, 1990, until Oct. 31, 2014.

Among those, 146 projects had some form of buildings for residential use, while only 65 were completed and occupied.

The 65 completed projects have brought to the market a total of 102,313 residential units, meaning that up to 100,000 homes in the remaining projects are being locked up developers, instead of being made available for sale, the researchers said.

They found that long delays occurred in the development process, mainly resulting from repeated applications by developers, many because of minor changes in details of additional facilities and open spaces.

Of the 146 residential projects, 80 involved more than 10 years from the first such applications to the last, and some still are undergoing development.

The 65 finished projects took an average of eight years to complete from the time the first planning application was approved, and one took 17 years.

The average time span is well beyond the three-year building covenant taken as a reasonable measure of development time from the date the government lease is granted.

The total area of residential and non-residential CDA project sites totaled 724 hectares, of which only 278 hectares were completed, leaving 446 hectares still untouched.

If homes were built on the unused land plots, assuming each hectare of land could accommodate 1,000 people, they could provide housing for at least 450,000 Hongkongers.

The study was funded by a Public Policy Research Grant from the government’s Central Policy Unit and led by HKU professor Lawrence Lai Wai-chung. 

While Lai said there is no evidence to suggest there has been intentional hoarding of land by the developers, he said the government could simplify the process of town planning and impose additional charges for resubmission of applications and modification plans for developers, so as to increase the efficiency of supply of residential units.

Legislative councilor Tony Tse Wai-chuen, who represents the architectural, surveying and planning functional constituency, said the idea of CDA zoning was to integrate smaller sites to maximize the benefits to communities.

However, in reality, it has had exactly the opposite effect, he said.

Tse agreed that the government should simplify the town planning process and CDA zoning should not be considered for upcoming projects.

Instead, the government should take a leading role in the development of projects in new development zones, he said.

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