Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (May 25):
To allow flexibility in the use of land resources and alleviate the problem of insufficient land supply, the Government introduced a few years ago a scheme to lease vacant government lands not needed in the short term to non-profit-making organisations (NPOs) at a nominal rent of $1 on a short-term basis for implementing community projects or other temporary uses. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of applications for lease of vacant government lands on a short-term basis received by the authorities from NPOs in the past three years, and the community projects for which the lands were intended to be used (set out in detail in a table);
(2) given that quite a number of locations under flyovers are close to residential housing and conveniently accessible by means of public transport, whether the Government has any plans to include vacant sites under flyovers in the aforesaid short-term tenancy scheme, so that NPOs can rent those sites for implementing community projects; if it does, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that some NPOs which have rented vacant government lands have indicated that after renting the lands, they often have to spend a substantial amount of money on land development and construction of infrastructures, and such a situation has deterred quite a number of NPOs from applying for lease of vacant lands, whether the authorities have considered establishing a matching fund to share the relevant development costs; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
In accordance with the existing arrangements, the Government will provide vacant government land to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for community use under appropriate circumstances. If the land in question has to be put to other uses in the long term, the Lands Department (LandsD) will normally grant the land through short term tenancy (STT) to accommodate the community use.
If the use under application is of a non-profit-making nature and has the support of the relevant policy bureau(x) for direct grant (instead of through tender) to an individual NGO, the relevant District Lands Office (DLO) of the LandsD will give consideration to the application. The rent is normally calculated at a market rate unless with the support of the relevant policy bureau(x) for rent concession.
My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(1) The LandsD does not have readily available information on the number of applications for STT, the uses involved in the applications and whether the applicant organisations were non-profit-making organisations (NPOs) in the past three years. In terms of the approved cases, around 40 STTs were granted by the LandsD for various kinds of non-profit-making uses at nominal rent in the past three years (from 2013 to 2015). At present, there are about 500 valid STTs for various kinds of non-profit-making uses, including school playgrounds, training centres and exhibition venues.
(2) The Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines specify the general factors that need to be taken into account when considering land uses, including the proposed use, composition, fire safety, transport, environment, landscape, and other factors. The same criteria apply to utilising spaces underneath flyovers.
NPOs can apply for renting any unused government land (including land underneath flyovers). Upon receipt of the applications, DLOs will consult the relevant policy bureaux and government departments on each and every application in accordance with the established mechanism. As mentioned above, if the application is supported by the relevant policy bureau(x) and the various government departments concerned have no objection towards the application, the DLO will consider granting the STT and suitably reflect the views of the relevant policy bureaux/government departments in the terms of tenancy.
(3) The fixed term of STT is generally not more than three to five years. Given the short term nature, applicants usually prefer sites which do not entail huge expenses on land development and infrastructure construction. Although the Government has not established matching funds specifically for land development and infrastructure construction for organisations which have succeeded in their applications for renting government land through STT at present, there are currently various subsidy schemes which provide support for NPOs in different aspects. Upon NPOs making the applications under the appropriate subsidy schemes based on their own needs and circumstances, relevant policy bureaux and government departments will process them in accordance with the established procedures and arrangements.
Ends/Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:45