Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (December 18):
The Chief Executive indicated in the 2013 Policy Address that the Steering Committee on Housing Land Supply chaired by the Financial Secretary would be re-organised as the (the Committee), which would co-ordinate the overall plans for development and supply of land in Hong Kong for various uses, and adjust supply in response to changes in demand. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the composition of the Committee and the number of meetings held last year;
(b) whether the Committee last year proposed any specific measure to increase residential land supply in the short to medium terms and recommended any individual sites for such use; if it did, of the number of sites that will be available for residential use and the respective numbers of residential flats that can be built in each of the next five years;
(c) whether the Committee has made any recommendation on the Land Sale Programme (LSP) in the fourth quarter of this year; if it has, of the details; whether the Committee has assessed the numbers of residential flats that can be supplied this year by the major sources of residential land supply (including Government's LSP, railway property development projects, projects of the Urban Renewal Authority, and lease modifications/land exchanges or other private developments), and how such figures compare with the target set by the Government early this year that the land supply in this year will be capable of producing 25 800 private residential flats, and whether it has assessed the supply of residential sites and flats next year;
(d) given that the Government has estimated that 24 000 first-hand units can be offered for sale in 2013 (including 12 000 uncompleted units for which the Government would expedite the processing of their pre-sale consent applications, 8 000 uncompleted units ready for pre-sale and 4 000 unsold units in completed projects), whether the Committee has assessed if all of the aforesaid 24 000 first-hand units can be offered for sale at present, and the number of units sold among them; if the assessment result is that only some of such units can be offered for sale, of the reasons for that;
(e) whether the Committee last year proposed any specific measure to increase the land supply for public housing in the medium to long term and recommended any individual site for such use; if it did, of the respective numbers of public rental housing flats and Home Ownership Scheme flats expected to be built in each of the five years starting from 2017-2018, and
(f) whether the Committee has assessed the supply of commercial sites in LSP for this year; whether the Committee knows the progress of the relocation of the existing government facilities in the two action areas of Kowloon East and the development of the North Commercial District on Airport Island; whether the Committee has assessed the time when government departments located in Central, Mong Kok and Wan Chai can be relocated to other districts, with a view to increasing the supply of office sites in these districts?
I reply to the six parts of the question as follows:
(a) The Steering Committee on Land Supply (the Committee) is chaired by the Financial Secretary, and the secretariat support is provided by the Development Bureau (DEVB). Relevant Directors of Bureaux and Heads of Departments attend the meetings having regard to the agenda of the meetings. The Committee is responsible for co-ordinating the overall plans for development and supply of land in Hong Kong for various uses (including housing land). Since the establishment of the Committee (including the Steering Committee on Housing Land Supply before its re-organisation) in end 2010, a total of 15 meetings have been held.
(b) In order to meet the housing and other needs of Hong Kong people, the 2013 Policy Address has set out the current-term Government's clear blueprint on increasing land supply, including ten measures to increase housing land supply in the short to medium term, and various long-term land development projects. The Government adopts a multi-pronged strategy and implements a series of measures continuously and systematically to optimise the use of developed land as far as practicable and create new land for development.
The Committee is responsible for co-ordinating the formulation and implementation of the various land supply measures, including co-ordinating the various land use reviews carried out by different bureaux/departments on an on-going basis (e.g., identifying land suitable for housing development from Government, Institution or Community sites, Green Belts, industrial land, and other non-residential zones, as well as from the government land being vacant, under short term tenancy or in other temporary uses); increasing the development density of residential sites by relaxing the plot ratio and building height restrictions under the circumstances that this is permissible in terms of planning and infrastructure capacity and would not result in unacceptable environmental impacts; and making available as soon as possible for housing development or other uses in more pressing demand sites for which the originally earmarked purposes will no longer be pursued, etc.
The various measures on increasing land supply have gradually borne fruit. We have identified a number of sites in various districts throughout the territory which could be considered for conversion into residential use. Upon completion of the studies on a need basis for individual sites and confirmation of their development feasibility, the Government will consult relevant stakeholders and proceed with the town planning and other relevant procedures to convert the suitable sites into residential or other uses as quickly as possible. In accordance with the internal established mechanism, sites which can be used for residential development will be allocated for public housing use or put up for sale for private residential development respectively, so as to achieve the housing land supply target.
(c) As mentioned above, the Committee is responsible for co-ordinating the work on the development and supply of land. Sites for private residential development will be put up for sale through the Government's Land Sale Programme (LSP) formulated by DEVB. The Government will announce the details of the LSP for the fourth quarter of 2013-14 within this month. Apart from the LSP led by the Government, the Government closely monitors the supply situation of other sources of private housing land, including railway property development projects, redevelopment projects of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and private development projects (including private development projects subject to lease modification/land exchange and private redevelopment projects not subject to lease modification/land exchange).
The Government's aim in private housing land supply is to maintain on average the provision of land capable of building about 20 000 flats annually. Apart from the LSP led by the Government, the actual annual land supply from other sources of private housing land depends on the implementation progress of relevant organisations, corporations and land owners. When announcing the 2013-14 LSP on February 28, 2013, the Government estimated that about 25 800 flats could be produced on the housing land for private residential development from various sources of private housing land supply in 2013-14.
The Government is selling land proactively through the LSP. In the first three quarters of 2013-14, a total of 24 residential sites have been sold/will be put up for sale. The total number of flats that could be built on these sites (about 8 200 flats) is equal to that in the whole year of 2012-13. This demonstrates the Government's resolve to increase land supply for private housing. As mentioned above, the supply from other private housing land sources (including railway property development projects, redevelopment projects of the URA, private development projects, etc.) depends on the implementation progress of relevant organisations, corporations and land owners.
In line with its past practice, the Government will account for the situation of private housing land supply from various sources for 2013-14, and provide a forecast of land that could be supplied to the market for private residential development in 2014-15 when announcing the 2014-15 LSP early next year.
(d) The estimated number of 24 000 first-hand private residential units that could be put to the market for sale in 2013, as mentioned in the question, was projected on the basis of information including the processing record of applications under the Government's Consent Scheme as at end 2012. The Government did not make an assessment of the sales progress of individual projects. As developers will adjust their sales strategies having regard to market situations, it is possible that not all of these units are put up for sale in 2013. Hence, the actual supply depends on the developers' sales timing and strategies. According to the statistics of the Land Registry, as at November 2013, the number of primary transactions recorded this year was about 9 000.
(e) As stated above, the Committee is responsible for co-ordinating the work on the development and supply of land. Sites suitable for public housing development are allocated to the Hong Kong Housing Authority. The work on land supply co-ordinated by the Committee as detailed above will also increase the land supply for public housing development. According to the information of the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB), with the concerted efforts of the Hong Kong Housing Authority and relevant government bureaux and departments, the Government has identified sufficient land to produce a total of about 100 000 public rental housing flats for the five-year period from 2017-18 to 2021-22 and a total of about 17 000 Home Ownership Scheme units from 2016-17 to 2019-20. Whether the support of District Councils and the local communities can be obtained for the land supply and development plans is one of the keys to the early completion of the public housing projects in the pipeline.
(f) The Committee also co-ordinates the work on the development and supply of commercial/business land. From 2010-11 when the government-initiated land sale was resumed to 2012-13, the Government sold a total of 10 commercial/business sites, capable of producing about 430 000 square metres of gross floor area (GFA). In the first three quarters of 2013-14, the Government has sold/will put up for sale three commercial/business sites capable of providing about 130 000 square metres of GFA. As regards the Action Areas in Kowloon East, the North Commercial District on the Airport Island and the reprovisioning of existing government offices in the core business districts as mentioned in the question, the progress is as follows:
(i) DEVB is working closely with relevant departments to examine the reprovisioning of existing facilities in the two Action Areas in Kowloon East, including vehicle examination centres, a recycling centre and a driving school with a view to making space for development of various uses and activities and facilitating the transformation of Kowloon East. The Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO) is undertaking pre-construction work for reprovisioning these facilities. It has commenced the preparatory work for the Kai Tak Fantasy project by holding an international competition to source original ideas and overall urban planning and design proposals for the development of Kowloon East. The competition was launched on November 28, 2013 and results will be announced by end 2014. EKEO will take into consideration the planning and design of the former airport runway tip, Kwun Tong Ferry Pier Action Area and the waters between the two in the development of Kowloon East.
(ii) To support the long-term economic development of Hong Kong, the Government will ensure the optimal use of the land on the Airport Island. According to THB, the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) is carrying out a study on the development strategies of the North Commercial District of the Airport Island. The relevant planning work is expected to be completed at the end of this year. The Government will work with AAHK to accelerate the development of the North Commercial District of the Airport Island. In developing the said district, the Government will consider the future expansion plan of the Hong Kong International Airport, including the planning of the three-runway system and its synergy effect with the development of Lantau Island, so that the development of the North Commercial District of the Airport Island can yield maximum benefits.
(iii) The current government policy is to relocate, if feasible, government offices which are not location bound out of high-value areas (including core business districts), with a view to increasing office space supply in the market. Recent initiatives include the sale of government-owned properties covering a portion of the 3rd floor and the whole of the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of Citibank Tower, No. 3 Garden Road, Hong Kong. Major initiatives in the next few years include relocation of the Trade and Industry Department Tower in Mongkok (expected to be relocated upon completion of the Trade and Industry Tower at the Kai Tak Development Area in 2015), and relocation of the office of the Department of Justice to the former Central Government Offices (the leased premises at Queensway is expected to be vacated around end 2017). As for the phased reprovisioning of the three government offices buildings at the Wan Chai waterfront, the Government plans to relocate some of the departments to the West Kowloon Government Offices under planning (the construction works are expected to be completed in 2018-19). We also plan to construct other office buildings for reprovisioning purposes. Depending on the allocation of resources and proposals in technical feasibility reports, construction works will commence from 2016-17 onwards, with the first office building expected to be completed in 2019-20. By then, vacated floor areas will be leased out by stages to increase the supply of Grade A office space in Wan Chai; and upon the completion of the whole reprovisioning exercise, we will consider the sale of the government offices buildings in due course.
Ends/Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:25