“No option is painless,” said Stanley Wong on the consultation carried out by the Task Force on Land Supply last year. “Every single option is going to be difficult and will touch on different stakeholders. We have to ensure that we take a multi-pronged approach. We don’t have the time to start one option until that is exhausted, then start the next one.”
Wong, Chairman of the Task Force, was speaking at a Chamber roundtable luncheon on 24 January. He shared the results of the extensive five-month survey, which aimed to find a majority consensus among the Hong Kong community on ways to relieve the city’s acute land supply issue.
He noted that Hong Kong is already desperately short of land – for transport infrastructure and commercial buildings as well as residential – and cannot make up this shortfall in the short term.
“The housing shortage is real, genuine and severe,” he said.
Besides tackling the immediate shortage, we also need to look to the long term so we do not end up with another shortfall in the future. This is why a multi-pronged approach is the only way forward.
“There has to be a consistent and sustainable land supply that will not be affected by external events – for example, a downturn in the property market,” Wong said. “It also must be steered by the highest echelons within the Government.”
We also must have a diversified land development model, he added, including using private developers and NGOs. He also recommended reducing red tape and making the development process more transparent. And concern for the environment must be a priority.
The 18 options put to the public were whittled down to the eight that received the most support. Of these, “brownfield development received very high support in our consultation,” Wong said.
The survey also found considerable support for the redevelopment of private land, particularly sites that come under the Private Recreational Lease system. Around 60% of respondents expressed support for the redevelopment of the Fanling Golf Course, which was lower than had been anticipated given the level of attention this particular site had received.
Respondents were also given the opportunity to comment outside of the 18 options. Although outside of the remit of the Task Force, these opinions have nonetheless been collated. Key concerns include the daily quota of 150 Mainland Chinese settling in Hong Kong, and suggestions about the use of military land.
Wong explained that the Task Force went beyond the normal standards of surveys to ensure it reflected the opinion of Hong Kong people. This included 185 different events, more than 29,000 questionnaires and 3,000 telephone surveys.
“In total, we recorded more than 1.3 million comments relating to land supply within the five-month period,” he said.
Wong also discussed the wide range of opinions expressed by respondents. Some people supported all 18 of the proposed options, while others said no action was needed, and gave their opinions why. But overall, the report shows that Hong Kong citizens understand the severity of the problem and are supportive of the Government’s efforts to find new sources of land.
Wong emphasized the important role the community has to play in land policy. “It must be a people-oriented approach,” he said. “Land development is for the people, so we must ensure there is enough consultation.”