Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the Task Force on Land Supply, said many people support the development of privately owned brownfields to bolster Hong Kong’s land supply for housing, with very few opposing the idea.
Wong said on Sunday he came to the conclusion after a review of the opinions gathered so far in the task force’s five-month public engagement exercise, which began on April 26 and will last until Sept. 26, on the best possible options to boost land supply to alleviate the housing problem, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Brownfields refer to land that has been zoned for industrial or commercial use but is now mainly used for other purposes such as storage dumps.
It is estimated that the combined area of such idle land amounts to hundreds of hectares in the New Territories, such as Yuen Long and Tuen Mun.
Wong said the task force has noticed that many people who submitted their views on the land supply issue expressed their approval of brownfield sites development and even provided suggestions on how to go about it. Some even said brownfield sites should be developed ahead of the green belt sites.
By comparison, there are only very few opposing the idea of using brownfieds to ease the tight land supply for housing, he said.
As such, public opinion on this option is quite clear, Wong said, adding that developing brownfield sites can help increase land supply for housing by about 110 hectares in the short term and by up to 220 hectares in the long run.
As for near-shore reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, one of the 18 options the task force presented to the public, Wong said there was support but also objections, although the latter did not seem resolute.
The government may consider improving the existing compensation mechanism in response to the appeal from industries that could be affected, he said.
Meanwhile, Executive Council convenor Bernard Charnwut Chan reiterated in a radio program on Sunday that he personally favors the reclamation option.
Chan also expressed his support for the proposal made by Our Hong Kong Foundation, a think tank set up by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, which is for the government to double the reclamation size of the East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) plan to 2,200 hectares.
Under the plan, the government can wholly own a huge amount of new land and does not need to go through the complex processes of negotiating with developers or existing landowners as well as rezoning, enabling it to not only build homes on the land in the way it sees fit but also control their sizes and prices, Chan said.
He said developing brownfields is just a short-term solution, and only reclamation can create sustainable communities and further help build a smart city.
The task force is set to submit a report of its preliminary observations on the public opinions it has gathered by Sept. 21.
Wong said there may be three or four options included in the report, adding that they must not only be clearly favored by a relatively large number of people but also potentially meet the requirement of supplying 1,200 hectares of land.
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