A think tank set up by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa urged the government to double the size of its proposed East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) to provide more homes to the people.
In a study released on Tuesday, Our Hong Kong Foundation suggested that the large-scale reclamation be increased to 2,200 hectares, or roughly half the size of Kowloon, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The expanded project will be able to accommodate 250,000 to 400,000 flats and house 700,000 to 1.1 million people, the foundation said.
ELM was first proposed by the government in 2014, with the aim of creating an artificial island through reclamations in the waters near Kau Yi Chau and the Hei Ling Chau, which are situated between Hong Kong Island and the main island of Lantau.
Our Hong Kong Foundation estimates that construction work would take about 10 to 11 years and cost several hundreds of billions of Hong Kong dollars, or about HK$1,300 per square foot.
It said such a unit cost wouldn’t be much more expensive than buying back farmland in the New Territories, for which the compensation rates currently stand at HK$390 to HK$1,560 per square foot, depending on the location, RTHK reported.
In 2016 the government unveiled “Hong Kong 2030+”, which represents the vision, policy and strategy of the government for the territorial development of Hong Kong beyond 2030.
The plan includes the ELM project, which seeks to develop 1,000 hectares of reclaimed land for 400,000 to 700,000 people, and create at least 200,000 employment opportunities.
ELM is one of the 18 land supply options presented for public consultation by the Task Force on Land Supply, a panel appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last year to come up with suggestions to help resolve Hong Kong’s housing woes. The proposal is under the medium- to long-term options.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Tung said Hong Kong’s land shortage has not only seriously affected people’s livelihood but also prevented many young people from getting married.
He said the problem cannot be solved by just acquiring one parcel here and one parcel there. The government should find solutions based on multi-faceted considerations, including overall economic positioning, regional competition, feasibility of engineering, and social needs, Tung said.
He believes that large-scale reclamation is the only feasible way to acquire sufficient land outside Victoria Harbour.
Eva Cheng Li Kam-fun, the think tank’s executive director, said the ELM proposal as it currently stands looks too conservative and may not be able to release the full potential of reclamation.
As such, the foundation also proposes the construction of a railroad and a highway to connect the artificial island with Hong Kong Island, Tuen Mun and even the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
A civil group has estimated that constructing a 1,000-hectare artificial island would cost as much as HK$460 billion, which suggests that the expanded ELM being proposed by the foundation would cost twice as much.
Chan Kim-ching, a member of the Liber Research Community, questioned the benefits of ELM to the general public, adding that the reclamation option has turned into a mainstream idea in public debates on land supply since Chief Executive Lam voiced her support for the proposal.
– Contact us at [email protected]