17 July 2019
Carrie Lam’s maiden policy address next month could contain a proposal to unlock some farmland in New Territories for property development. Photos: CNSA, Bloomberg
Carrie Lam’s maiden policy address next month could contain a proposal to unlock some farmland in New Territories for property development. Photos: CNSA, Bloomberg

Lam expected to boost home supply by utilizing some NT farmland

Hong Kong authorities are expected to boost new-home supply by utilizing some tracts of farmland in the New Territories for property development projects.

The potential scheme will be aimed at helping local residents who are seeking to buy a home for the first time, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

An announcement could come when Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivers her maiden policy address next month.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam said her first policy speech, which is scheduled for Oct. 11, will focus on housing problems and that she aims to outline the policy direction and concrete measures that must be taken to fulfill people’s aspirations.

While she did not elaborate, it is expected that Lam will unveil in her speech details of a scheme to help local first-time homebuyers who do not qualify for subsidized flats but can’t afford private housing in the current market.

In keeping with her election campaign pledge, Lam could announce a plan under which large-size farmland plots in New Territories can be turned into private housing estates, with the development undertaken through a public-private partnership model.

Under the model, the government could offer land at concessional terms to developers, who will then sell part of the units in the estates they build to the government.

Marco Wu Moon-hoi, chairman of the Hong Kong Housing Society, told a radio program on Tuesday that the government could offer such units mainly to both “green form” and “white form” applicants of the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS), reports.

Green form applicants are those living in a public rental housing estate who must abandon their unit once they buy an HOS flat, while white form applicants are those living in private flats who do not receive a housing subsidy.

As for the selling price, Wu said it will depend on buyers’ financial capabilities but added that he expects it to be substantially lower than market prices.

Since the price will be relatively low, there will be more restrictions if owners of those units want to resell them later, according to Wu. The units could be resold only to green form applicants or white form applicants. 

There had been reports earlier that such units can only be sold back to the government within eight to 10 years after being bought.

HKEJ cited a source as saying that while the government will accord top priority to boosting homeownership among locals, authorities do not seek to use the new scheme to replace the existing public home system.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who is vice chairman of Legco’s Panel on Housing, was worried the model will cause the government to lose dominant power when cooperating with developers.

The scheme could flop just like the “Hong Kong Property for Hong Kong People” policy launched by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, he said.

Wan also pointed out that urban renewal projects that adopted a similar model in the past have proved to be highly controversial as people wondered if the projects were aimed at benefiting the developers, rather than the public.

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