CY’s Last Call: Business looks at the Policy Address 2016

Development & Housing: Increasing supply and flexibility to meet demand

Leung’s ambitious plan to increase land and housing supplies have so far been less successful. Only 46 out of 150 sites mentioned in his 2014 Policy Address had been rezoned, with more than half of the sites yet to be processed. Plans regarding underground commercial space, Lantau development and reclamations are either still in preliminary stages of conversion or stuck in LegCo’s queue for funding. Meanwhile, the supply of public flats is lagging behind the yearly target of 28,200 flats per annum in the coming 10 years, with only 97,100 units scheduled for completion in five years’ time (averaging 19,420 per annum).

It is predictable that Leung will continue to eye the city’s green belt and brownfield lands, together with development plans in North Lantau, Kowloon East, Hung Shui Kiu, Yuen Long and North New Territories in this year’s policy address. This will come shortly ahead of the LegCo’s Panel on Development meeting on the overall situation of land supply in late January.

The North Lantau development plan, in particular, will be linked to the Third Runway project as the Tung Chung New Town was proposed to support the Hong Kong International Airport in the first place. The Airport Authority clients struggle with staffing due to the expense of bringing employees to work. More affordable housing in the area could alleviate some staffing pressure.

In Kowloon East, the concept of a ‘Smart City’, with the use of technology to “enhance pedestrian and vehicular accessibility, manage the facilities in the area, and disseminate information to the public in digital format for better enjoyment of city life”, will once again be raised.

To add flexibility to the scarce supply, Leung may well adopt a suggestion by the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee in 2013 to re-introduce temporary or transitional housing flats to address an increasing issue of subdivided housing. The Long Term Housing Strategy Annual Progress Report will be discussed by lawmakers in the Panel on Housing in February.

As for the so-called ‘sandwich class’, there will likely be continued focus and extension of the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS), with a possible further liberalisation of the HOS flats market.

On top of land management, the proposed establishment of the Harbourfront Authority to enhance harbourfront areas is expected to be gazetted for LegCo discussion following the end of phase two public consultation in December, 2014.

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Alex Fok is a Harbour Times journalist monitoring Hong Kong’s daily political scene and diplomatic updates. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Economics, Politics and International Studies from University of Warwick and his master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a former committee member of the Warwick-based Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society (WHKPASS) and was the chief editor of the society’s magazine – PASSTIMES.