Date
29 May 2017
Skyrocketing property prices is a key reason behind the proliferation of under the table “Ding right” transactions. Photo: HKEJ
Skyrocketing property prices is a key reason behind the proliferation of under the table “Ding right” transactions. Photo: HKEJ

Why this colonial housing policy must go

At a recent public forum featuring candidates for the Legislative Council elections, Bowie Hau, chairman of the Sheung Shui District Rural Committee who is running for a seat in New Territories East wowed the audience by pledging to work for the abolition of the “small house” policy, more commonly known as “Ding’s right”(丁權).

(Editor’s note: “Ding” refers to an adult male descendant of early rural settlers or indigenous clans in the New Territories who had been living in the area before it was ceded to Britain in 1898.)

Hau said the policy creates the impression that indigenous people enjoy preferential treatment from the government, exacerbating divisions and tensions in society.

He promised to push for all permanent residents to be given the right to build a house in the New Territories.

The British colonial administration introduced the policy in 1972, giving male heirs of indigenous villagers the right to buy land at below market price and build a three-story house of no more than 2,100 square feet.

Each “ding” can only build one house during his lifetime and the right itself is not transferable.

Many people who can’t afford a home amid skyrocketing prices are particularly resentful of the policy.

Hau’s proposal might have touched a nerve. 

In fact, he did no more than point out a contentious issue that had existed for decades. 

Many of these villagers have been selling their rights to property developers who then build luxury houses and sell them on the open market at a premium.

Estimates put one such right at HK$300,000 (US$38,700) to HK$1 million.

There have been calls for a review of the policy not only because it’s unfair to others but also because it gives developers a shortcut to big money.

Hau says the issue should be tackled now before it reaches a tipping point.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 8

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal

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