The Chief Executive delivered the latest Policy Address last Wednesday, introducing the current-term Government’s work progress and future work plan in terms of land creation. Last year, the Government announced its full acceptance of the recommendations tendered by the Task Force on Land Supply. We are taking forward the recommendations in full stream, and at the same time strengthening and enriching the land supply strategies to meet the demand for housing, economic and social development of the community.
Land creation for housing development bearing fruit
The Policy Address announces that the efforts in increasing housing supply over the years have started to pay off. We have identified all the 330 hectares of land required for providing 316 000 public housing units. This is the first time for us to meet the 10-year public housing supply target as set out in the Long Term Housing Strategy.
As I have talked about this in detail in a recent press conference, about 35 percent of such 300-odd hectares of land come from various New Development Area (NDA) projects, including mainly the Kwu Tung North/Fanling North NDA and the Hung Shui Kiu/Ha Tsuen NDA. For these two NDAs, the planning procedures have been completed and land resumption has already commenced. For the “three connections and one levelling” (which means water supply, electricity supply, roads and site formation works) and the building construction to be conducted afterwards, we are able to have a relatively firmer control of the works timetable. Another 40 percent or so of the land would be made available from rezoning some 210 sites of possible housing development potential. About two-thirds of such sites, i.e. about 140 sites, have had their planning procedures completed. For the subsequent procedures of land administration and construction works, we are confident about the control of the construction time required.
No let-up in efforts to increase land supply
To meet the public housing supply target is indeed not without difficulties, but confidence lives inside us. Yet, it takes time to transform a piece of “primitive land” into a “spade-ready site”. Finding and creating land is analogous to “manual stone breaking”, in which you take baby steps to slowly forge your path. We must remain dedicated to sparing no effort in our work to ensure that we can meet the 10-year public housing supply target. As the land created in the current NDA projects will eventually be used up, to maintain a stable housing production, we must sustain our planning effort and take forward large-scale land creating projects to make available the land required for public housing. One of the important long-term housing supply options is the development of artificial islands near Kau Yi Chau.
Number of domestic households on the rise
According to the latest projection compiled by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), Hong Kong’s population by the early 2040s will reach a peak of 8.11 million, representing a drop of 110 000 from the previous projection of 8.22 million. This has led to public concerns whether it implies that the demand for housing land will be reduced.
I would like to point out that we must also note the increase in the latest projected number of domestic households as compared with the previous projection and the decrease in average household size from 2.8 to 2.6. Given that the projection on housing demand is based on the number of domestic households rather than population size, a sustained increase in the number of domestic households will generate an increase in housing land demand. Moreover, the above are but results of the baseline population projections. Under the C&SD’s high population projection scenario, the population will reach a peak of near 8.86 million in 2051. There are of course a lot of uncertainties in the projection of population size. As a responsible Government, however, we must make good preparation in terms of land use planning to avoid the recurrence of the existing land shortage problem.
Challenges of the “double-ageing” problem
The challenge of “double-ageing” problem is another critical factor affecting the demand for housing land. Hong Kong’s population is ageing rapidly. Compared to the young people, the elderly need more space for accommodation, e.g. an accessible bathroom for wheelchairs. In order to provide more elderly-related social welfare and medical facilities, we would need more “Government, Institution or Community” land. Apart from the ageing population, we also face the problem of ageing building stock. In 30 years’ time, the number of private residential units aged 70 years or above will increase by several hundred-fold to reach more than 300 000. To carry out massive redevelopment programme, there must be enough decanting space for relocation of affected households; therefore, we must plan ahead and conduct long-term land use planning.
Meeting the needs for sustainable development
Last Friday, the Government sought funding approval from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) to commence the study related to artificial islands in the Central Waters to meet the needs for sustainable development of Hong Kong. The study will entail the formulation of development proposals and assessments of every aspects in relation to the proposals. The financial assessments will cover estimation on construction costs, land value and the direct economic contribution brought by the development proposals. The study will also explore the implementation of mega infrastructure projects in different modes with various financing options such as the development rights model and railway-plus-property model.
We look forward to the support of the general public and LegCo Members so that the study could be carried out right away. During the study, which will span three-and-a-half-year, we will provide scientific and objective analyses and assessments on the development proposal for deliberation by the community.
The Invigorating Island South initiative
Apart from sparing no efforts to create land, the Government is also committed to building a quality and liveable environment.
The Policy Address proposes to implement the Invigorating Island South initiative which is inspired by the Energising Kowloon East (EKE) initiative. The EKE project was an innovative district development concept rolled out by the Government in 2011. After almost ten years, the implementation effort is starting to bear fruit. The old industrial areas in Kowloon East are transformed into a vibrant and distinctive Central Business District. By drawing on the successful experience gained from the EKE initiative, the Development Bureau (DEVB) will set up the Invigorating Island South Office staffed by a multi-disciplinary team to develop the Southern District into a place full of vibrancy, vigour and velocity for people to work, live, explore new ideas and have fun.
This year’s Policy Address has duly responded to public aspirations by putting forward numerous proposals in different areas. The DEVB would do its utmost to complement and implement its respective initiatives to enhance people’s quality of life, so that we can all share the fruits of social and economic development as soon as possible.
29 November, 2020Back