LCQ12: Measures to increase supply of residential sites and units

Following is a question by the Hon Alan Leong Kah-kit and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 30):


According to the figures provided to this Council by the Development Bureau in October 2012, in the unleased or unallocated government land on the statutory plans of Hong Kong, (i) there are a total of 391.5 hectares of land zoned "Residential" or "Commercial/Residential", among which 18.9 hectares have been included in the Application List for land sale (the "Application List"), with 372.6 hectares of the land remaining; and (ii) there are 932.9 hectares of land which are zoned "Village Type Development" mainly for the development of New Territories small houses.  The Chief Executive has stated in his newly delivered Policy Address that "the top priority of the current-term Government is to tackle the housing problem" .  Regarding the short-term measures to increase the supply of residential sites and units, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government has drawn up a timetable on how the aforesaid 372.6 hectares of land zoned "Residential" and "Commercial/Residential" can be put to good use; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) as the Secretary for Development has indicated that "tackling the problem of small houses is still on the work schedule of the Development Bureau" , whether the Government has considered allocating immediately a portion of the aforesaid 932.9 hectares of land zoned "Village Type Development" for residential development; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) as there are currently 30 residential sites on the Application List, whether the Government will take the initiative to sell some of the sites therein, or even resume regular land sale; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) as it has been reported that the uncompleted residential properties approved by the Government for sale in the past half-year involved a total of 7 885 units, but the number of units offered for sale in the market by developers was much smaller than this, whether the Government has any measures in place to prevent developers from hoarding residential flats approved for sale, so as to increase the supply of private residential flats; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



My reply to the question raised by the Honourable Alan Leong is as follows:

(a) In reply to a question on "vacant government land" raised in the Legislative Council on October 17, 2012, the Administration already made it clear that unleased or unallocated government land is not equivalent to land immediately available for development.  The figures of the relevant land areas are obtained simply by subtracting the leased or allocated areas under respective land use zonings from the total areas covered by such zones on the statutory plans, based on statistics as at the end of June 2012.

According to the location maps of unleased or unallocated government land released by the Development Bureau on its website on October 17, 2012, excluding roads/passageways, man-made slopes, land allocated under the Simplified Temporary Land Allocation (STLA) procedures and fragmented sites (sites less than 0.05 hectares in area), among the remaining 391.5 hectares of government land in the "Residential" and "Commercial/Residential" zones, there are still a number of sites with irregular shapes (e.g. empty space between buildings, back lanes and narrow strips of land alongside existing developments, highways or other amenities), which may not be suitable for housing development.

The suitability of individual sites for development depends on a number of factors, such as their geographical suitability, the adequacy of related infrastructural facilities, compatibility with neighbouring land uses (e.g. whether the site is too close to existing or planned buildings or roads) etc.  Some sites may require technical studies to ascertain their development feasibility, and some may have remained undeveloped pending the completion of related infrastructural or site formation works.

For land with potential for development, the Administration will review and assess its development feasibility under the established mechanism.   Furthermore, when a plot of land is ready for development, the Administration will, as soon as possible, make appropriate arrangements, such as allocating it for public housing development, including it in the Application List for land sale, or allocating it for other uses.  This is an on-going process under which the Administration will allocate a site for suitable development as and when the relevant planning procedures have been duly completed.  As such, no timetable has been set.

(b) Under the Small House Policy, a male indigenous villager at least 18 years old who is descended through the male line from a resident in 1898 of a recognised village in the New Territories may apply to the authorities for permission to erect for himself during his lifetime a small house on a suitable site within his own village.  The authorities have a policy responsibility to plan for "Village Type Development" sites.

As stated in the reply to a question raised in the Legislative Council on October 17, 2012, land under the "Village Type Development" zoning on statutory plans scatters across the territory and is mainly located in recognised villages in the New Territories.  At present, there are in total 642 recognised villages approved by the Lands Department.  In general, these sites are not suitable for large-scale development because of their sporadic locations and infrastructural constraints.

Over the nearly four decades since the implementation of the Small House Policy, much has changed in the rural setting as well as in the community at large.  Having regard to the present-day land use planning and the principle of optimal use of land resources, the Administration recognises the need for a review of the Small House Policy.  Such a review will inevitably involve complicated issues in various aspects including legal, environment, land use planning and demand on land, etc, all of which have to be carefully examined.  We will continue to engage various sectors of the community in discussion and communication in this regard.

(c) Since 2010, the Administration has fine-tuned the arrangement for the sale of government sites by initiating sale through public auction or tender while retaining the Application List system, and announcing quarterly land sale programme in advance.  Announcing annually the List of Sites for Sale by Application and quarterly in advance the programme of government-initiated land sale has been implemented for nearly two years.  This provides the market with a transparent and certain programme of land supply and at the same time allows the Government to respond to market demand and adjust the pace of government-initiated land sale, in order to maintain a sustained and steady supply of land to the market.

Regarding housing land supply, the Administration seeks to ensure that there will be adequate land to meet the subsidised housing production targets.  At the same time, the Administration also has a responsibility to cater for the public's demand for private residential units by supplying land for private housing development, so as to ensure the healthy development of the property market.  At present, the Administration already has an established mechanism for allocating land for construction of subsidised housing as well as private housing.  The Administration will provide the Housing Authority with suitable land to build subsidised housing.  The Administration also maintains a certain number of sites in the Land Sale Programme in order to provide a steady supply of sites through land sale for private residential development in the market.  Excluding the sites sold/to be sold and a site allocated for Home Ownership Scheme development, there remain 22 unsold residential sites in the 2012-13 Land Sale Programme instead of 30.

(d) There were 12 residential developments, involving 7 885 residential units, approved for presale by the Director of Lands from July to December 2012.  As at January 22 this year, amongst these units, relevant developers have offered 4 715 units for sale by releasing the price lists.  The Agreements for Sale and Purchase in respect of 2 394 of these units have been entered into as at December 31, 2012.

If the Government lease so provides, developers may apply for presale consent for units in residential developments under construction up to 20 months in advance of the anticipated completion date.  The decision as to whether or not to apply for such presale consent rests with the developers.  If they have applied for presale consent, upon receipt of the Director of Lands' consent, developers will generally put the units up for sale as soon as practicable.  In line with the established principle of upholding the market mechanism, we do not impose restriction on the time for private developers to offer their uncompleted residential units for presale.  In view of recent public concern over the supply of first-hand private residential properties, the Government will closely monitor the trend of developers offering residential properties for presale.  We hope that developers will sell as soon as possible projects that have been granted presale consent in order to meet market demand.

Ends/Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Issued at HKT 14:30