HONG KONG - In a rare gesture, Hong Kong’s most influential developer association on Wednesday said it will not oppose the government if it invokes the city’s controversial Lands Resumption Ordinance to take over land for public housing.
The remarks came after the city’s largest political party in the legislature - the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - urged the government to take bold moves to increase the housing supply, including implementing the land ordinance.
The ordinance allows the special administrative region’s chief executive to order the requisition of any land for public purposes.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had dismissed similar suggestions last year, saying that it might prompt a wave of judicial reviews against the government, thus failing to deliver as an efficient way to boost land supply.
People’s livelihoods come first, and developers shouldn’t be selfish during such a difficult time, said Stewart Leung Chi-kin, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong.
Leung also said the association welcomes collaboration with the government in land developing. The group comprises influential property developers in the city, including Hang Lung Properties, New World Development, Cheung Kong Holdings, and Sun Hung Kai Properties.
The SAR government has invoked the ordinance 13 times for public rental housing, since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland in 1997.
A successful case is the Yan Tin Estate in the Tuen Mun district in northwestern Hong Kong, which was delivered in 2018 and now provides 42,687 units for 13,500 people. The land was reclaimed by the SAR government in 2009.
At a news conference on Wednesday, the DAB stressed that, according to past practice, the ordinance is an effective way to boost the supply of public housing in the short to medium term.
The government won every time it was challenged by judicial reviews, DAB Chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king said. Resistance in implementation is not a reason for non-action, she added.
By invoking the ordinance, the government would be able to re-establish people’s hope for moving in a public rental house in three years, the DAB said.
The DAB noted that land the government currently possesses can create only about 248,000 units of public rental housing in 10 years, far less than the targeted 315,000 units under the new Long Term Housing Strategy introduced in December.
As of June, the latest average waiting time for general applicants of public rental housing was 5.4 years, according to the Hong Kong Housing Authority.
The DAB’s advice is part of its policy suggestions to the government’s upcoming Policy Address in October. The party has made a series of suggestions to boost land and housing supply, including reforming the Steering Committee on Land Supply to be led by the chief executive.
The party also published a full-page advertisement in the local Chinese-language newspaper Oriental Daily News on the suggestion.
On the same day, the SAR’s Development Bureau said the government is open to and will seriously consider any suggestion that could boost land supply in Hong Kong, and help the city meet its target under the Long Term Housing Strategy.
Anthony Chiu Kwok-wai, executive director of the Federation of Public Housing Estates, said the group supports the government’s invoking the Lands Resumption Ordinance, but worries that private developers may request judicial reviews to hinder the move.
HONG KONG NEWS