With the only real solution to Hong Kong’s housing shortage evidently increased land supply, the plans for Tung Chung seem more crucial than ever. Plans to forge ahead with an expanded Tung Chung New Town were first announced in the 2014 Policy Address, and the idea was met with moderate enthusiasm. That enthusiasm has increased and Tung Chung is shaping up to be a new supply promised land.
As stated in the PA, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link, when completed, will become an important Pearl River Delta transport hub. With two feasibility studies completed, the extension of the New Town will make room for nearly 50,000 residences and a commercial hub for business and leisure focused on the area arising from those projects. The government is keen to proceed, evidenced by the establishment of the Lantau Development Advisory Committee, ostensibly to study long term “economic and community” development and exploit the benefits of a third runway as well.
The government is throwing a bone to residents with facelifts of Tai O and Mui Wo, as well as new bike trails and road improvements, but the goal line is clearly years down the road. Studies regarding land reclamation around Sunny Bay and commercial development at the future border crossing are on the horizon, and the government will look to kick-start preliminary studies of developing artificial islands in the waters off Lantau. Ultimately, however, the question remains as to whether Tung Chung will work on a larger scale? Is this the next Sha Tin?
“Future development should go beyond Tung Chung and extend into other surrounding areas, blending Tung Chung, Siu Ho Wan, Sunny Bay, Discovery Bay and Tai O as one tourism/sports/retail hub. This will help to build a strong bridgehead economy for Lantau,” theorises Marcos Chan, head of research for CBRE Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. And Chan admits the area will need to have a good balance between residential, commercial, retail and leisure development to make it a viable option for business and living.
Work to Do
But Tung Chung and Lantau aren’t quite ready for their close-ups just yet. Bridge and landfill aside, there’s a shortage of facilities and other infrastructure that make it less workable and liveable — right now — than other planned towns. Chan points out basic elements like conventional shopping centres and other themed retailing to support tourism development and everyday essential shopping for locals are needed, as is a wider range of hotels, enough varied office space to support those growing sectors, and, “At least one international-grade convention centre to facilitate growth of the MICE industry, which is crucial for Hong Kong to further promote its business tourism industry.”
Tung Chung isn’t short of schools, though North Lantau Hospital is the only major full service hospital in the area; at least residents no longer need to go all the way to Kowloon. The district could use more or new sports amenities and the island’s natural beauty needs to be emphasised and protected. “Lantau also deserves to [maintain] a natural environment to promote ecology tourism. It requires a good balance between commercial and ecological development,” says Chan. An environmental assessment was carried out and approved according to the LDAC, though it cut corners according to several Lantau and Hong Kong green groups.
Perhaps most significant in Tung Chung’s future growth is how well it’s connected to the rest of the SAR, which could mean greater MTR service. “Lantau needs more than just the North Lantau Highway to transfer people in and out of the island. It needs highways to connect Lantau directly with different parts of Hong Kong, including Kowloon (it can leverage the existing one), Hong Kong Island and the New Territories,” Chan notes.
Tung Chung is currently home to several private housing developments, among them Tung Chung Crescent and Caribbean Coast. On the public housing choices Yu Tung Court and Fu Tung Estate comprise nearly 5,000 sales and rental units. With the government dedicated to 480,000 new homes over the next ten years, that number should go up, particularly if Tung Chung’s commercial and leisure trees bear fruit. The latest addition to the area’s residential landscape is Nan Fung Group’s The Visionary, just over 1,400 one- to four-bedroom flats on Ying Hong Street and Ying Tung Road.
As of the end of February, properties in The Visionary were priced at the extremes of the market: $5 million got purchasers approximately 450 saleable square feet and up to $50 million got roughly 2,500 saleable square feet. When the project initially launched, Nan Fung was setting prices competitive with second hand homes in the area and often offered discounts (as high as 20 percent). Chan believes this is precisely the kind of residential mix that will make Tung Chung a success. Businesses need staff and staff need someplace to live, and the expanded new town will need “Mass and high-end residential to attract people to reside on Lantau so as to provide enough local population to support job growth and promote commercial activities,” notes Chan. It’s the same argument and wondering that arose when Kowloon East was designated a CBD2. As Chan finishes, “This is like a chicken-and-egg story; you need people to support commercial activities but you also need job opportunities to induce people to move onto the island.”