Date
11 December 2017
Kwu Tung North in the New Territories is being developed as a new community. The government should have the resolve to hammer out deals with owners of land plots in brownfield sites for housing development. Photo: Xinhua
Kwu Tung North in the New Territories is being developed as a new community. The government should have the resolve to hammer out deals with owners of land plots in brownfield sites for housing development. Photo: Xinhua

Brownfield sites offer land to ease housing shortage

The Task Force on Land Supply met earlier this week to discuss options for boosting land supply.

One proposal is to use fringe areas of country parks for public housing development. This is a highly controversial plan, as well all know.

Professor Chau Kwong-wing, a task force member and chair professor of the department of real estate and construction at the University of Hong Kong, made another suggestion, which is to reclaim the entire Plover Cove Reservoir.

According to him, reclaiming the whole reservoir can provide an extra 1,200 hectares of land, on which the government can build 300,000 new homes with an average size of 650 square feet. The area can house as many as 900,000 people.

This out-of-the-box proposal might sound both intriguing and mind-boggling, and could turn out to be as controversial as the proposal to build new homes in country parks.

However, since our city is so desperate for land to build new homes, we agree that the task force should keep an open mind and consider all options, no matter how outlandish they might be.

But as an old Chinese saying goes, “distant water won’t help to put out a fire close at hand”. All of these options exist only on paper at this point, and could take years, if not decades, to materialize.

As such, while we study the feasibility of these proposals, we should continue to look for resources that are immediately available to ease the housing shortage. In fact, these resources are right in front of us, and we’re referring to the vast pool of brownfield sites scattered across the New Territories.

It is estimated that there are some 1,300 hectares of brownfield sites in the New Territories at the moment. Apart from the 540 hectares of land in places including Kwu Tung North, Fanling North, Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long South that have already been designated for use, there are still 760 hectares of vacant brownfield sites that can be used for building new homes.

Indeed, not all brownfield sites that can be taken back can be used for housing development. But the government should have the resolve to hammer out deals with owners of these lots against all the odds, and then take them back for housing development.

We believe, given the fact that so much public interest is at stake, the government has the money and manpower to tap into these land parcels, not to mention that it can invoke the Lands Resumption Ordinance if necessary. All that is needed is determination.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 5

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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