29 February 2020
Of the 18 options on how to boost land supply presented by an expert panel, the development of brownfield sites for housing is the favorite. Photo: HKEJ
Of the 18 options on how to boost land supply presented by an expert panel, the development of brownfield sites for housing is the favorite. Photo: HKEJ

Brownfield development most favored land supply option

Hongkongers who support the development of privately owned brownfield sites for housing outnumber those who favor reclamation.

This was among the preliminary findings of a public consultation conducted by the Task Force on Land Supply, an expert panel formed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last year to come up with suggestions on how to boost land supply for housing, the  Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing a source.

The panel conducted a five-month public engagement exercise from April 26 to Sept. 26 to gather public views on land supply options. It solicited submissions, sent out online questionnaires, gathering more than 93,000 responses,  and conducted about 3,000 phone interviews.

The source said that of the 18 options on how to boost land supply presented by the panel, the respondents’ favorite was the development of brownfield sites, which refer to land that has been zoned for industrial or commercial use but is now mainly used for other purposes such as storage dumps. The brownfield option had a support rate exceeding 80 percent.

The second most popular option, supported by nearly eight in 10 respondents, was creating housing development sites in the New Territories.

Two other options – near-shore reclamation outside Victoria Harbour and development of the East Lantau Metropolis – both had a support rate of just over 50 percent.

Some media reports said about 60 percent of the respondents supported the development of sites under private recreational leases, such as the Fanling golf course, but the source said an initial review of the results suggested the ratio was in fact not that high, although the results are still being finalized.

In related news, the Civic Party announced on Tuesday that a recent survey found that three in 10 people wanted the government to take back idle agricultural land plots and those granted to indigenous villages in the New Territories under the small-house policy to help increase land supply for housing.

The survey was based on phone interviews with 3,236 residents from Oct. 16 to Nov. 5.

The Lantau Tomorrow Vision, which Chief Executive Lam proposed in her policy address last month, only gained support from 13 percent of the respondents, according to the survey.

The plan seeks to create up to 1,700 hectares of land through the formation of artificial islands between Lantau and Hong Kong Island through reclamation.

Dr. Kwok Ka-ki, a lawmaker representing the Civic Party, said the low support rate for the mega reclamation plan showed that Hong Kong people are quite wise as they know that what the government should do is put existing land resources to good use before undertaking any reclamation.

Kwok challenged the government to hold a referendum or conduct a public opinion survey to find out what people think of the reclamation plan.

Meanwhile, a total of 38 economic academics issued a joint statement supporting the Lantau Tomorrow Vision.

Among the signatories were Richard Wong Yue-chim, an economics professor and chair of economics at the University of Hong Kong, and Sung Yun-wing, of the Department of Economics and associate director of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

In their statement, the academics said they had no choice but to step forward to let the public know that the plan is worth upholding. They noted that debates about the plan have deviated from rationality and moved to populism based on political manipulation.

The economics professors said the government’s financial reserves are totally sufficient to realize the plan while related costs can be recouped by selling land on the artificially created islands. The said the plan was affordable and a very great investment.

– Contact us at [email protected]