Exercising public power to resume land for public housing development
The Chief Executive has identified housing and land supply as the top priorities in her latest Policy Address, proposing a Government-led approach for the planning of land use and infrastructure and to resume the required private land for established public purposes, so that members of the public can see that the Government is using its full strength to develop land in the short, medium and long term for our people. The Development Bureau will press ahead with the work on this front with our utmost endeavours by intensifying the planning efforts in three aspects. Our specific planning objective is to resume the land wholly for public housing, “Starter Homes” and related infrastructure development. Here, I would like to talk about the various work that are in the pipeline.
Increasing the scope and speed of land resumption
Proper planning is a pre-requisite for resumption of land for development. Studies have to be conducted on individual land parcels to establish a “public purpose” for them, such as the development of public rental housing, provision of infrastructures, community facilities or new development areas (NDAs), before we could proceed to commence the statutory procedures to resume private land for specific development purposes. The Government has all along been invoking the Lands Resumption Ordinance to resume private land. In the past five years, there were merely ten public housing developments involving resumption of private land, covering an area of about 13 hectares. In future, we will intensify the Government-led planning efforts to significantly increase the scope and speed of land resumption.
Expediting the reviews on brownfield sites with development potential
Brownfield sites are one of the foci of the three forthcoming planning studies. Developing brownfield sites is a land supply option that has won the broadest-based support. Currently, more than 700 hectares of brownfield sites in the New Territories have not been covered by NDAs or other development projects. Of which, about 450 hectares are mostly private land larger in size and located nearer to existing new towns and major highways, including those in Ping Shan and Lam Tei. Not all of these sites are with development potential and some of them may have to be reserved for brownfield operations.
The Planning Department (PlanD) will accord priority to the study of 160 hectares of brownfield sites that are closer to existing infrastructure with a view to identifying sites therein suitable for public housing development. We expect to complete the preliminary study in the coming few months and aim to make public the location of the sites by the end of the year to enable the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) to proceed with further technical assessment. We will do our best to compress the time needed for technical studies and streamline subsequent procedures such as rezoning, land resumption and engineering design. The PlanD will continue to review the remaining 290 hectares of brownfield sites for their potential for public housing development in the next stage.
Gatekeeping with care and caution
The Government must be careful and cautious in exercising public power to resume land for development. We cannot resume land solely out of our own inadvertent decision or simply based our decision on the shortage of land. Instead, we must make good planning for the future, play a good gatekeeping role to establish a public purpose for land resumption, taking into account all the factors during the process to avoid or mitigate the legal risks. Meanwhile, land resumption involves compensation and rehousing arrangement. We announced in 2018 the proposed enhancements to the general ex-gratia compensation and rehousing arrangements for residents affected by the Government’s development clearance exercise. Having been endorsed by the Legislative Council, the arrangements were first introduced for the Kwu Tung North (KTN)/Fanling North (FLN) NDAs this year. The progress on this front is highly conducive to the Government’s effort of land resumption.
Reviews on the other two types of land with development potential
Apart from brownfield sites in the New Territories, we will also review the land suitable to be zoned as Comprehensive Development Area or Residential (Group A) development with higher plot ratio, (generally speaking at 7.5 or above in the urban area and 5 or above in the New Territories) and with relatively low-rise existing structures of, say, only a few storeys, and that the owner(s) has no concrete development plan. Based on the information available, around ten land parcels that meet such criteria have been identified. These sites have already gone through the planning stage, it will save us a lot of planning effort once the sites are ascertained to be suitable for public housing development. We hope we could make public our preliminary views on which of these sites are suitable for public housing development by the middle of next year.
In addition, we will expedite the review on three urban squatter areas suitable for high-density housing development, namely Cha Kwo Ling Village, Ngau Chi Wan Village and Chuk Yuen United Village, with a view to expediting the development of these seven hectares of urban sites and rebuilding a new community mainly comprising public housing. The living environment of residents in the squatter areas will also be improved with compensation and rehousing to be provided. Our estimate is that these three squatter areas can provide about 6 300 public housing units. The related reviews and technical studies are expected to complete within one to two years.
A steady stream of land resumption projects by exercising public power is in the pipeline
Apart from the additional land resumption projects mentioned above, a steady stream of the Government’s land resumption projects through the exercise of public power is in the pipeline. With works of KTN/FLN NDAs to be commenced, upcoming large-scale development projects in Hung Shui Kiu/Ha Tsuen and Yuen Long South, as well as a couple of public housing and other public works projects in the pipeline, we are given to understand that about 700 hectares of private land will be resumed, of which more than 400 hectares is expected to be resumed in the next five years, significantly more than the 20 hectares resumed in the past five years.
Given the dire situation of land shortage, it is unrealistic to expect one single land supply option to be a panacea to solve the current land and housing shortages faced by Hong Kong. We will press ahead at full steam the multi-pronged land planning and development work, further compress the time needed for technical studies and streamline procedures to enable early completion of new housing units. We need the support from all sectors of society to take forward the initiatives to increasing land supply. I hope all of you will render support to our work on this front.
20 October, 2019