The latest Policy Address delivered by the Chief Executive puts considerable emphasis on land supply and it has sparked a hot debate. Housing currently tops the list of public concerns. We need sufficient land to cater for all activities and facilities, be it economic development, or government and community facilities, such as education, medical and health, social welfare facilities, open space, public space. The Policy Address puts forward numerous initiatives with a view to tackling the issue of land supply by means of developing new land resources on one hand and optimising the use of existing developed land on the other.
No slack off with land development
The Government has been developing land resources through a multi-pronged approach. The supply of land in the short-to-medium term is mainly achieved through reviewing existing land uses and appropriately increasing the development density. However, population density increases alongside development density. Besides, converting land originally designated as public open space or community facilities into housing developments is by no means the most desirable option. Unfortunately, to meet the community’s pressing demand for housing and other land-occupying facilities, this is our only way out.
The land shortage will linger until 2023 to 2024 when the medium-to-long term large-scale projects, including Kwu Tung North/Fanling North New Development Areas (NDAs), Tung Chung New Town Extension and Hung Shui Kiu NDA, are completed and ready for occupation. Having said that, to cope with the future needs of Hong Kong, we have to keep up with the land development efforts.
Building a land reserve for development
The Government has proposed the Lantau Tomorrow Vision, and is seeking to explore the feasibility of developing in phases artificial islands in the relatively less ecologically sensitive Central Waters. The study will also cover development of the third Core Business District on the artificial islands, and a new major transport corridor linking up Hong Kong Island North, Lantau and the coastal areas of Tuen Mun to support the development of the artificial islands and to expand the transport capacity of Northwest New Territories, so as to ease the traffic loading on the West Rail and Tuen Mun Road.
The Government is striving for the development of artificial islands with an area of about 1 000 hectares near Kau Yi Chau in the first phase, aiming at commencing the works in 2025, in order to increase land supply and develop a liveable near carbon-neutral city. The newly formed land reserve can be used for thinning out the existing densely populated urban areas and the renewal of old districts. With proper planning, such as reducing the development density after demolition of old buildings, or rezoning of sites for public space or social welfare facilities, the problems of ageing buildings in old districts, excessive population density and lack of public open space/community facilities could be solved altogether, leading to improved living environment and enhanced liveability. The development of artificial islands with an area of about 700 hectares near Hei Ling Chau in the second phase is subject to the study results and actual needs, and there is no schedule of works as at present.
We are aware of the public concerns about the development of artificial islands. We will conduct the necessary site investigations, technical studies, as well as traffic and environmental impact assessments, etc. in the future studies, so as to draw up a detailed proposal and to provide more comprehensive information when public engagement activities are launched.
Unleashing development potential of brownfield sites
Preliminary observations of the Task Force on Land Supply (the Task Force) reveal public aspirations for development of brownfield sites.
The NDA projects underway, including Kwu Tung North/Fanling North NDAs, Hung Shui Kiu NDA and Yuen Long South development, cover about 340 hectares of brownfield sites. We will advance the study on the brownfield sites covering about 200 hectares in New Territories North, and initiate studies on the remaining 760 hectares of scattered brownfield sites to identify those with greater development potentials. Besides, two studies on brownfield operations are due for completion this year to provide valuable information for the formulation of policies and measures on existing brownfield operations.
Converting agricultural land to other uses to boost land supply
The Government will continue to invoke the Lands Resumption Ordinance to resume the land included under development plans for public purposes. However, balanced and healthy development of society hinges not solely on the Government. For early unleash and better use of privately owned land not covered in the Government’s planned developments, we will formulate a framework of a “land sharing pilot scheme” based on fairness and high transparency in order to meet both the public and private housing needs in the short-to-medium term.
Under the pilot scheme, applications will be processed in accordance with a set of transparent criteria and procedures, including a requirement that no less than 60 to 70 percent of the additional gross floor area will be used for public housing, which will be mainly subsidised sale flats. It is our plan to introduce the pilot scheme next year, after making reference to the final report of the Task Force.
Optimising the use of existing developed land to unleash development potential
Apart from developing new land resources, we will optimise existing developed land to unleash their potential, e.g. by redevelopment of buildings constructed under the Civil Servants' Co-operative Building Society (CBS) Scheme.
At present, about 60 percent of the CBS buildings are located in densely developed urban areas, such as Kowloon City, Mong Kok, Sham Shui Po and Hong Kong Island East, and in some cases, the plot ratio has not been fully utilised. In addition, some of these sites are in the vicinity of existing public housing estates and their ancillary facilities. By kicking start the redevelopment of these buildings, we can optimise land resources to increase housing supply. We will invite the Urban Renewal Authority to conduct a study. Pilot projects are expected to be launched in the second half of next year.
Besides, having reviewed the effectiveness of the previous revitalisation scheme for industrial buildings, we have decided to reactivate the scheme to expedite transformation of traditional industrial zones, to provide operating space for industries with development potential, as well as to enhance the safety of industrial buildings. Under the new scheme, conversion of industrial buildings for transitional housing will be allowed. The scheme will be launched in phases from the end of this year. The Development Bureau will announce the specific details in due course.
Land development is always a daunting task. According to the preliminary observations submitted by the Task Force last month, the community broadly agrees that we are facing a pressing need for land supply, we should be prepared for the rainy days and a multi-pronged approach to increase land supply must be adopted. We will make reference to the observations of the Task Force, and endeavour to take forward our work in the future.
14 October, 2018Back