Environmental groups hit back at Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor after she rebuked those opposing land reclamation as a way to ease Hong Kong’s housing crisis.
In a forum on Sunday, representatives of about 20 environmental and concern groups said the government should not make land reclamation or development of country parks a priority to increase land supply; rather, it should be considered as the last option, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Speaking at the Commission on Poverty Summit 2018 on Saturday, Lam said that while an environmental group is against reclamation, Hong Kong needs more land for housing.
She said she wants to speak for children who live in extremely poor living conditions but may not know how to voice out their hardship.
As Lam’s remarks suggested she is in favor of land reclamation and even the possible development of country parks, many groups joined a forum on Sunday to express their objections.
Former lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim said according to Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030, the city is only short of 200 hectares of land to meet most of the housing needs of the public.
That being the case, it would be quite sufficient to take back the land occupied by the Fanling golf course, which is managed by the Hong Kong Golf Club, since it covers an area as wide as 170 hectares, Yiu said.
Yiu, the founder of Real Estate Development and Building Research & Information Centre, also criticized the government for having never provided any proof to show that insufficient land supply is highly correlated to rising home prices.
Citing academic studies, Yiu said the more likely culprit is hot money, especially that coming from the mainland, adding that easy access to bank loans and low-interest rates are also to blame.
Chan Kim-ching, a member of the Liber Research Community, said land development should be well planned and prioritized, otherwise, aside from housing issues, the city will also face problems arising from haphazard land policies and their irreversible impact on the environment.
Instead of reclaiming land from the sea and developing country parks, the government should first consider using sites under private recreational leases, idle land plots and brownfield sites to boost the land supply for housing, Chan said.
He noted that there are 723 hectares of brownfield land not included in any development plans.
Wong Fook-yee, an adjunct professor at the Department of Geography and Resource Management of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and former assistant director (Country and Marine Parks) of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said the Housing Society, commissioned by the government, is currently studying the feasibility of developing two sites on the periphery of Tai Lam Country Park and Ma On Shan Country Park, but any such development would be in violation of the government’s climate change policy and the biodiversity strategy and action plan.
Meanwhile, the 30-member Task Force on Land Supply, which began functioning in September last year, is set to begin next month public discussions on how to increase land supply.
The options offered by the panel include more land reclamations and developing sites in country parks.
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