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LCQ1: Statistical information on government lands

Following is a question by the Hon Jeremy Tam and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (April 26):

Question:

Regarding the statistical information on government lands, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) among the vacant government lands that are currently unleased or unallocated, of the respective total areas of those which are (i) suitable for development and (ii) unsuitable for development, with a breakdown by their planned uses (including "Residential", "Commercial", "Industrial", "Government, Institutional and Community Facilities", "Open Space", "Comprehensive Development Area" and "Village Type Development") and the District Council districts in which they are located, and mark on a map the location of each piece of land;

(2) among the vacant government lands that are suitable for residential development, of the respective total areas of those (i) which have been included in the List of Sites for Sale by Application, (ii) which have been allocated to the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) for public rental housing development, (iii) which are currently leased out under short-term tenancies, (iv) the site formation of which has been completed and studies on whether such lands should be put on sale in the market or be allocated to HA are underway, (v) the site formation of which has been completed but are not subject to any development plan, (vi) site-formation works and land use planning for which have not been carried out, and (vii) long-term planning for which is underway; and

(3) of the total area of the residential sites newly secured in each of the past three years through changing the planned uses of unleased government lands, with a breakdown by District Council district?
 
Reply:
 
President,

Land is valuable resource in Hong Kong. The Government endeavours to make optimal use of land resources through continuous land use planning, allocation and management in order to meet the various development needs of society. Under the existing mechanism, the Planning Department (PlanD) will, in accordance with the guidelines on the provision of various types of land uses and facilities as set out in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, and the requests of the relevant policy bureaux and departments (B/Ds), identify or reserve suitable sites which have been examined and confirmed to be developable for long-term planning uses in order to meet the various needs of society including housing, industrial or commercial developments, road and infrastructure, open space, as well as "Government, Institution or Community" (G/IC) facilities.

When long-term development projects are being taken forward, the Lands Department (LandsD) will be responsible for leasing and allocating the relevant developable sites. These sites may be put to the market through the Government's Land Sale Programme, allocated to individual B/Ds for specific uses, or leased to non-government organisations with the support of relevant bureau(x). As regards developable land not yet leased or allocated for long-term planning uses and other government land which has yet to be planned for long-term development uses, the LandsD will, where practicable and appropriate, allocate these sites to individual B/Ds for temporary uses, lease them for various commercial purposes through tender, or lease them directly to particular organisations or bodies for temporary uses that support specific policy objectives, in order to make optimal use of the land before the long-term development is realised.

It is necessary to undergo different stages and procedures before the "virgin sites" could turn into "disposable sites" (i.e. developable land). It takes time often to tackle various technical issues, carry out site formation, provide infrastructure and other supporting facilities before a development can take place. Therefore, individual unleased or unallocated government sites may have been reserved or under study for long-term uses, or under various necessary technical assessments, procedures or works for long-term development or other uses. These sites should not be considered as "idle".

My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
 
(1) In response to questions raised by Members of the Legislative Council in July and October 2012, the Government has compiled statistics on a one-off basis on the unleased or unallocated government land within individual land use zonings at the time. The Government has clearly stated that the figures neither meant that the land were "idle", nor being areas of developable land. A considerable portion of the unleased or unallocated government land such as man-made or natural slopes, passageways, back lanes, empty space between buildings and fragmented sites near existing streets, was not suitable for development. Individual unleased or unallocated government sites may only reflect that they were not let out under short term tenancy or for other temporary uses for the time being, but might have been planned or under planning for long-term uses, under on-going land use review and/or technical assessment, or under various necessary procedures or works for long-term development or temporary use.

The statistics and distribution map of the above unleased or unallocated government land were uploaded to the website of the Development Bureau in October 2012 for public inspection (www.devb.gov.hk/en/issues_in_focus/the_land_area_analysis/index.html). Such compilation of figures requires significant resources. The unleased and unallocated government land merely reflects the grant status of land at a given point of time, which may change from time to time subject to the planning of land use, and by no means shows whether the site has been committed to long-term planning use or whether it is suitable for development. Nor does it reflect the area of developable land. Therefore, we have not updated these one-off statistics on government land.

(2) and (3) The various land use reviews conducted by the PlanD on an on-going basis have already covered the aforementioned government land currently unleased or unallocated, under short term tenancy, in different short-term or government uses, and other government land not yet planned for development at the moment. Such land mainly includes plots with development potential that are situated on the fringe of the built-up areas in existing urban areas and new towns, adjacent to existing roads and other infrastructure, and having relatively low conservation value and buffering effect.  Individual land parcels with development potential are subject to the aforementioned planning and assessment mechanism based on a series of considerations such as the adequacy of related infrastructural facilities and compatibility with neighbouring land uses, so as to determine their suitability for development.

As announced in the 2014 Policy Address, we have identified in total some 150 potential housing sites through land use reviews for providing over 210 000 flats (over 70 per cent for public housing). The Government also announced in the 2013 Policy Address various initiatives to increase land supply, among which a total of 42 sites could be allocated for residential use in the short to medium term to provide about 40 000 flats (over 60 per cent for public housing). Furthermore, the Government has announced in the 2017 Policy Address that through on-going land use reviews, together with the newly identified potential housing sites, it is estimated that 26 additional housing sites, capable of producing over 60 000 units (over 80 per cent for public housing), can be made available for housing development, most of which in the coming five years from 2019-20 to 2023-24, provided that the relevant statutory plans can be amended and/or other necessary procedures completed in time.

As at mid-April 2017, out of the above some 210 potential housing sites, 94 sites (about 178 hectares in total area, distributed among the Southern, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Tsing, Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Tai Po, North, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, Islands and Sai Kung districts) were already zoned or rezoned for housing development, with an estimated capacity for providing about 115 000 flats, including about 68 400 public housing units and 46 600 private housing units. Another 20 sites (about 16 hectares in total area) have commenced the statutory rezoning procedures, and will, upon completion, provide an estimated total of some 10 800 flats, including about 8 600 public housing units and 2 200 private housing units.

The remaining potential housing sites are under the necessary planning procedures, technical assessments and/or site formation and infrastructure works. As in the past, we will consult the District Councils and relevant stakeholders on the development of individual sites as and when they are ready, and submit the rezoning proposals for consideration by the Town Planning Board, with a view to making the sites available for public and private housing development as soon as possible.

Ends/Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30

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