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Land shortage problem calls for a multifaceted solution

land shortage problem

Financial Secretary Paul Chan recently blogged his suggestion for solving the problems of land shortage and soaring property prices: land reclamation. Chan explained that more than 3.5 million people - half of Hong Kong’s population - currently live in
new towns, including Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Tai Po, Yuen Long and Sheung Shui, which were developed in the 1970s. In the following two decades, more new towns were built in Tin Shui Wai, Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung. However, the development of Tung Chung New Town was greatly scaled back due to the financial crisis of 1997 and the SARS outbreak in 2003. Hong Kong hasn’t seen another new town since 2000, largely because of the huge reduction in land reclamation. Between 2000 and 2015, only 690 hectares of land was generated from reclamation: an 80% drop from the previous 15-year period spanning 1985 to 2000.

Currently, Tung Chung houses approximately 80,000 residents, and future land reclamation could add 49,500 housing units to the area and increase the local population to 124,000. This would still be a small figure when compared to Sha Tin or Ma On Shan’s population of 700,000, but with transport links such as its dedicated MTR station, its close proximity to the airport and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Tung Chung in fact has great potential, which can be tapped into via further large-scale reclamation and the implementation of more facilities and infrastructure.

Naturally, reclamation alone is not going to solve the land shortage problem and environmentalist backlash is to be expected. In an attempt to placate the public and simultaneously speed up the pace of land expansion, the government is considering developing a golf course for extra housing use. A 170-hectare golf course in Fan Ling, which has a lease expiring in 2020, can house up to 130,000 public housing units. In the interests of both golfers and home seekers, only a portion of the 38-hole course will be needed for the new development.

Some scholars have also suggested building high-rises on top of cargo piers. While engineers have approved its technical feasibility, this is hindered by environmental and transportation concerns. If this option is later deemed too unreliable or a risk, clearing the piers to free up more land could be an alternative.  

Potential solutions such as land reclamation, developing golf courses and deserted farmland, or building accommodation on top of cargo piers are all viable ideas worth exploring. A multifaceted solution is exactly what Hong Kong needs to inject some hope into our future land supply situation and help curb our skyrocketing property prices. 

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