LCQ1: Compensation and rehousing arrangements for villagers affected by development projects

Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Lau and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Michael Wong, in the Legislative Council today (January 10):

In recent years, a number of development projects in the New Territories have commenced one after another. Some affected villagers have relayed to me that while the clearance date is drawing near, they have not been rehoused after a protracted period of time, and that the amounts of compensation that they may get are in no way sufficient for them to purchase a residential unit with a living environment similar to that at present, which make them feel helpless. On the other hand, the Government made special compassionate arrangements several years ago for the villagers of Chuk Yuen Village who were affected by the project for construction of a new boundary control point at Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai. Such arrangements included identifying an alternative site for building a new Chuk Yuen Village to rehouse the indigenous villagers (IVs) and allowing the non-indigenous villagers (non-IVs) to build on nearby private agricultural land a two-storey cottage house with a maximum area of 500 square feet per floor. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) in respect of each of the three development projects of the Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas, the Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area, and the Yuen Long South development, of the numbers of villages, IVs' households and non-IVs' households to be affected, as well as the projected expenditure and the actual expenditure to date on compensation and ex-gratia payments;
(2) whether it will review and improve the policies on compensation and rehousing in relation to development projects, and whether it will set up a dedicated fund for development projects to expedite the disbursement of compensations to affected villagers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it will, in relation to the ongoing and upcoming development projects, appropriately rehouse the affected villagers by adopting the compassionate arrangements for Chuk Yuen Village, so as to maintain the cohesiveness of the affected rural communities, and prevent confrontations and disputes between the Government and the villagers arising from development projects, thereby promoting social harmony; if so, of the details; if not, the considerations for that?

The Government strives to increase land supply. New Development Areas (NDAs) and extensions of new towns are very important sources of land supply in the medium and long term.  Of around 220 000 housing units estimated to be completed in the medium and long term, approximately 200 000 will come from NDAs and new town extensions.
My reply to Hon Kenneth Lau’s question is as follows:
(1) Within the development areas of the Kwu Tung North and Fanling North (KTN/FLN) NDAs and the Hung Shui Kiu (HSK) NDA Projects, no clearance of any New Territories recognised villages will be involved. According to the freezing surveys conducted by the Lands Department (LandsD) earlier, the estimated numbers of households and residents affected by KTN/FLN NDAs Project are about 1 500 and 4 400 respectively; and the numbers of households and residents affected by HSK NDA Project are about 1 600 and 3 400 respectively.  
For the Yuen Long South (YLS) development, no clearance of any New Territories recognised villages will be involved within the development area of the project according to the Recommended Outline Development Plan announced in August 2017. Since the freezing survey for YLS development has not been conducted, LandsD does not have estimations of the numbers of households and residents affected at this stage.
As the relevant studies (including detailed engineering design) of the above three development projects are still underway, the actual area of land affected by works where resumption and clearance will be necessary is still subject to verification. Given that the work of land resumption and clearance has not yet commenced and the eligibility screening of households has not yet been conducted, LandsD cannot provide specific figures of the total estimated costs and relevant expenditures of land resumption and compensation in respect of these development projects at this stage.
(2) The implementation of NDAs and extension of new towns can increase housing supply for meeting public demand for housing. Meanwhile, we will also provide appropriate compensation or rehousing arrangements for eligible residents affected by clearance.
As for residents affected by NDAs and extension of new towns, the Government is fully aware of their concerns about clearance, and understands that some affected clearees would like the Government to consider enhancing the existing ex-gratia allowance (EGA) and rehousing arrangements for land resumption and clearance. As a matter of fact, in view of the importance of KTN/FLN NDAs and HSK NDA Projects, the Government has proposed Special Ex-gratia Compensation Packages and Special Rehousing Schemes for affected eligible households. With regard to different development projects, government departments have also all along maintained candid exchanges with District Councils, stakeholders and affected clearees through different meetings and interviews to understand their concerns. We will continue to listen to the views expressed by all parties concerned.
Separately, at present, the Government pays compensation for land acquisition and clearance-related allowances according to an established mechanism through the block allocations mechanism under the Capital Works Reserve Fund (CWRF). Specifically, the assessment of statutory compensation is based on the provisions under the relevant Ordinances, whilst EGAs are calculated in accordance with the eligibility criteria and payment framework endorsed by the Legislative Council (LegCo) Finance Committee. So long as compensation and EGAs for those affected by the relevant land acquisition and clearance are assessed in accordance with the said Ordinances and endorsed framework, the Government will pay compensation and EGAs to those eligible under the applicable Subheads created under Head 701 of CWRF through the block vote mechanism.  The said prevailing arrangement enables LegCo to endorse the eligibility criteria and payment framework of compensation and EGAs, and also allows the Government to pay compensation and EGAs timely.  The Government currently has no plans to establish other dedicated funds apart from CWRF.
(3) Chuk Yuen Village is a pre-1898 recognised village located within the Frontier Closed Area (FCA). Before the construction of the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point, the indigenous villagers (IVs) and non-indigenous villagers (non-IVs) of the village have been living there together for a long time. The Government has decided to provide eligible non-IVs with a special arrangement of Cottage House Option, whereby non-IVs may construct cottage houses on agricultural land purchased by themselves within the resite area. The special arrangement has taken into account the unique special circumstances of Chuk Yuen Village being located in the remote FCA whereby the non-IVs and IVs of Chuk Yuen Village have been living together within the remote FCA for a long time, forming a closely-knitted community. However, such special circumstances do not exist in the existing and upcoming development projects.
Moreover, the objectives of implementing NDAs and new town extension projects are to increase land and housing supply and to unleash land potential for development of higher-density housing and other development purposes through integrated planning and infrastructural upgrading. If part of the land so released is allocated for construction of two-storey cottage houses for rehousing purposes, while it may be more easily accepted by affected households, developable land in the medium and long term will be reduced and site use cannot be optimised; and the cost effectiveness of infrastructural investment will be lower. These may not be in the interest of society in general.
In view of the shortage of land resources, we believe that the Cottage House Option is not a desirable rehousing arrangement. The target of the Special Rehousing Schemes currently proposed by the Government for eligible households affected by KTN/FLN NDAs and HSK NDA Projects is high-density multi-storey residential developments. Not only can this optimise site use, but it can also preserve past neighbourhood connections as far as possible. Thank you President.

Ends/Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Issued at HKT 16:05