Following is a question by Reverend Canon the Hon Peter Douglas Koon and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, in the Legislative Council today (March 29):
According to the statistics of the 2021 Population Census, the median per capita floor area of accommodation of domestic households in Hong Kong was about 172 square feet. Besides, according to the finalised report of "Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030" promulgated in October 2021, the Government has set a target of achieving an average living space per person at 215 sq ft to 237 sq ft. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will consider adopting the standard on average living space per person set by the aforesaid report in the newly-planned public housing projects; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it will, by drawing reference from the practice mentioned in the study report on the quantitative indicators for "meeting the housing needs" of urban households published by the relevant Mainland authorities, categorise the average living space per person into three standards (i.e. the "threshold standard", "enhanced standard" and "comfortable standard"), and include those families falling below the "threshold standard" into the "government-subsidised home system"; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it will, by drawing reference from the experience of countries such as the United States, Canada, Japan and Korea, formulate "minimum living standards" to stipulate the minimum standards on aspects such as the safety and basic facilities of accommodation, the number of residents, and the areas of bedroom and kitchen, with a view to securing the living quality of members of the public; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The average living space per person of 215 to 237 square feet as indicated in the final report of the "Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030" (the Hong Kong 2030+) is not a standard on average living space per person set by the Government. It is rather a forecast of outcome assuming that the average sizes of new flats under planning increase by 10 per cent to 20 per cent and the gross floor area (GFA) concerned is shared among a forecast intake into those flats.
In order to enhance the liveability of Hong Kong as a compact high-density city and respond to public aspirations for larger living space, the Hong Kong 2030+ has taken into account considerations on home space enhancement in assessing Hong Kong's future land requirements. This is where the aforementioned assumption of 10 per cent to 20 per cent enhancement in average sizes of new flats (i.e. 55 to 60 square metre and 83 to 90 sq m for public and private housing units respectively) arises from. In drawing up this assumption, the Development Bureau (DEVB) and the Planning Department (PlanD) made reference to the situations in a number of well-developed countries/cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Singapore and Tokyo. The DEVB’s response to various parts of the question is as follows:
(1) The DEVB and the PlanD have already adopted the assumptions of large living space as mentioned above in the planning studies for new development areas such as the Northern Metropolis, the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands and Tseung Kwan O Area 137, so as to ensure sufficient land could be provided in the planning stage to meet the aspirations for larger living space.
(2) The aforementioned assumption is an average to be used as a basis for our planning studies and related impact assessment. In reality, flats come in a range of sizes. What we have done in recent years is to introduce requirements on minimum flat size, which is relatively easier to enforce as well as more apprehensible to the public and developers as compared to setting a standard on average living space per person. From late February 2022 onwards, a minimum flat size requirement of at least 26 sq m (around 280 sq ft) in saleable area has been imposed on all Government land sale sites, railway property projects, projects of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), as well as land exchange or lease modification applications for private development. Since the implementation of the policy, the requirement has been included in eight sold Government land sale sites, two railway property development projects and five URA projects.
As regards public housing, the Housing Bureau advises that the 2022 Policy Address sets a minimum size for newly-built flats. To be more specific, the saleable area of subsidised sale flats to be completed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority from 2026-27 onwards will be no less than 26 sq m in general. For public rental housing units, except for single-person and two-person units, the internal floor area will be no less than 21 sq m, which is roughly equivalent to 26 sq m saleable area for subsidised sale flats.
Society has generally responded positively to the introduction of minimum flat size requirements as mentioned above. The relevant policy is still at an initial stage, and we will suitably consider a review on the requirements taking into account the demand and supply of housing units.
(3) Apart from the above measures to regulate flat sizes, the Buildings Ordinance (BO) and its regulations also prescribe standards for the planning, design and construction of buildings, so as to ensure that the buildings are suitable for occupation and habitation from the safety, health and environmental perspectives. On the safety front, the BO and its regulations lay down requirements on structural safety and fire safety, e.g. structural elements should be constructed to the required strength, building components should meet the required fire resistance rating, and the flats have to be provided with adequate means of escape. On the health front, it is specified that every room used for habitation must be provided with natural lighting and ventilation by means of windows of prescribed dimensions. To promote a quality and sustainable built environment, the Government introduced in 2011 the Sustainable Building Design Guidelines (the Guidelines), making compliance with the Guidelines a pre-requisite for applications for GFA concessions for buildings. The Guidelines set out design requirements in respect of building separation (to improve ventilation), building setback (to improve the pedestrian environment) and site coverage of greenery (to mitigate heat island effects). The Government currently does not impose any restriction on individual rooms in a flat (such as bedroom) or on the number of habitants, so as to avoid hindering design and causing inconvenience for the public through over-regulation.
Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:40