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Land and housing supply
2013-11-06

Following is a question by Hon Charles Peter Mok and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 6):
Question:
It is learnt that the Government has recently proposed to review the uses of “Green Belt” sites to identify greenery land for conversion to residential use, and it is also reviewing the development density of existing residential sites so as to increase flat supply. Some community groups consider that the Government does not have a comprehensive plan when identifying sites for residential development, and that it should conduct environmental and ecological impact assessments before planning. Some organisations have also suggested that the Government should first consider using idle government, rural and industrial sites to satisfy the demand for residential sites. In connection with the aforesaid concerns about the sustainable development of Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the detailed information, usage and development timeframe of the 400 hectares of idle residential sites currently owned by the Government; if it cannot provide such information, of the reasons for that;
(b) as the authorities have proposed to increase the development intensity of the sites in Kai Tak Development Area, of the estimated number of additional flats to be provided upon the implementation of the proposal; when the Government will assess the impact of such proposal on the environment and society (including the additional burden on the infrastructure such as traffic and community facilities in the district, as well as the ventilation problem caused by wall effect, etc.), recommend corresponding measures and conduct public consultation, and of the relevant details; and
(c) as I have learnt that the residents affected by the Urban Renewal Authority’s redevelopment project in Kowloon City district strongly requested for in-situ rehousing, whether the authorities concerned have any concrete proposal in response to such request (including whether they will change the land use planning for Kai Tak Development Area); if they have, of the details; if not, how the authorities concerned will provide in-situ rehousing for the residents, and what compensation proposals they will offer to the residents?
Reply:
President,
As mentioned in my reply to the question by the Hon Martin Liao Cheung-kong about the development of “brownfield sites” earlier today, basically all the options for increasing land supply have been considered by the Government. In view of the current tight supply of land and housing, we must actively take forward all the initiatives to increase land supply in the short, medium and long term, so as to meet the housing and other development needs of the society.
When reviewing whether a site is suitable for housing or other developments, or if its development intensity could be further increased, we will thoroughly consider a series of factors, including the location and size of the site, local situation, traffic, environment, ecology, recreational and community facilities, as well as urban design, etc. We will also consult the relevant District Council(s) and locals as appropriate. Moreover, we will consult the government departments concerned, and make reference to the “Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines” for the standards for the provision of relevant supporting facilities, so as to ensure that the local facilities provided can meet the needs arising from the increased population.
My reply to the sub-questions raised by the Hon Charles Peter Mok is as follows:
(a) As regards the Government’s reply to the Legislative Council about the 400-hectare “vacant government land” in October 2012, the Development Bureau (DEVB) has clarified repeatedly that the figure simply referred to the area of unleased or unallocated government land in “Residential” or “Commercial/Residential” land use zones as at end June 2012. It is not equivalent to the area of land readily available for developments or the land reserve. The statistics and calculation method of the land concerned, as well as maps showing the geographical distribution of such sites in Hong Kong, were uploaded onto the website of DEVB in October last year. As shown by the maps, there are a number of sites with irregular shapes, such as empty space between buildings, back lanes and narrow strips of land alongside the existing developments, highways or other amenities, within the land concerned. We will review and assess the sites with potential for residential or other developments therein under the established mechanism, and allocate them for developments when they are ready.
(b) The Chief Executive announced in the 2013 Policy Address that, to facilitate the transformation of Kowloon East, the Government would review the planning of the sites in the Kai Tak Development Area, study the possibility of increasing the office and housing supply, without compromising the land supply from the area in the coming five years, and conduct consultation on the outcome of the study. In this connection, we are studying the possible options for increasing the office and housing supply. The scope of the study includes technical assessments to ensure that the proposals would on one hand adhere to the original planning vision and related urban design concept, and would on the other hand not lead to overloading of the infrastructures (i.e. transportation, water supply, stormwater drains and sewerage, etc.) and leisure and community facilities, etc., or unacceptable environmental impacts including noise, air quality, ventilation and visual aspects. Initial findings of the above study indicates that the development intensity of four housing sites at the North Apron area can be increased by about 20%, coupled with units with slightly reduced average size,to provide about 1 000 additional residential flats. We are proceeding with the consultation on increasing the development intensity and the relevant town planning procedures. Upon completion of the whole study in mid-2014, we will take forward the planning proposals arising from the study via the statutory town planning procedures and consult the District Council(s), local residents and relevant stakeholders.
(c) To respond to the calls from the public, the Urban Renewal Strategy promulgated on February 24, 2011 provides that the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) should offer “Flat-for-Flat” (FFF) as an alternative option to cash compensation and ex-gratia payment to domestic owner-occupiers affected by URA redevelopment projects commenced on or after February 24, 2011. Under the FFF scheme, domestic owner occupiers may opt for either in-situ FFF units in the URA’s new development at the original sites or for units at a Kai Tak Development site earmarked for the FFF scheme.
URA will construct four residential buildings for the FFF scheme in the Kai Tak Development Area, providing about 500 residential units with saleable area ranging from around 320 to 670 square feet. These units are scheduled for completion in 2016. As for in-situ FFF units, URA will reserve in each of its redevelopment project certain FFF units on designated floors of the new development for owner occupiers to choose from. All eligible owner occupiers can participate in the FFF scheme.  According to the estimation of URA, in-situ FFF units will be progressively completed from 2017 onwards.
Besides, eligible tenants affected by redevelopment projects will be rehoused in a certain number of public rental housing units provided by the Hong Kong Housing Authority or the Hong Kong Housing Society, under their agreements with URA.
According to URA, currently there are seven announced and commenced URA redevelopment projects in Kowloon City, involving about 1 100 households. Of these 1 100 households, about 190 are owner occupiers and about 910 are tenants. URA will handle and provide assistance to these affected households based on its prevailing compensation and rehousing policies.

Ends/Wednesday, November 6, 2013 Issued at HKT 15:58

Office Of Hon. Charles Mok, Legislative Councillor (IT)