Hong Kong’s ongoing public consultation on land supply will end at the end of September. But already Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and housing minister Frank Chan Fan have both stated that reclamation is the only option to effectively increase land supply.
“The government would do what it has to do, regardless of the result of the consultation,” the top officials said. It seems that the policymakers have already made up their mind.
As a matter of fact, Lam’s apparent push for reclamation is a good thing for Hongkongers.
The city has wasted too much time in debating over ways to increase land supply. We don’t need a chief executive to lead such debate for another few years.
As the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance has prohibited reclamation in the Victoria Harbor, the government has pinpointed five other sites for reclamation — Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun, Ma Liu Shui in Sha Tin, Siu Ho Wan and Sunny Bay on Lantau Island, and Tsing Yi Southwest.
The five sites are expected to provide nearly 2,000 hectares, which can potentially house more than one million flats. Even if the government only delivers half of that, it would be able to meet the city’s long-term land shortage of around 1,200 hectares.
Environmental groups had been arguing that reclaimed land will be used for building luxury flats to sell to the rich, instead of benefiting the grassroots.
But Lam has vowed to boost the public housing ratio to 70 percent, and the government has decided to allocate nine sites originally planned for private flats to pave way for construction of 10,600 subsidized flats. Given this, environmental groups may struggle to get support from the public.
Labor shortage in the construction sector was seen as another issue. However, the shortage has eased as several mega projects, such as HongKong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the cross-border high-speed rail link, have reached the home stretch.
Also, the construction industry imports around 1,000 workers from overseas each year to fill up specific positions. Additionally, Hong Kong might consider importing more workers from the Great Bay Area.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 5
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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