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Introduction

  • Currently, insufficient land supply to meet people’s pressing housing needs has been plaguing Hong Kong
  • The Task Force on Land Supply has identified 18 short-to-medium, long term and conceptual land supply options and launched public consultations
  • Solely relying on seeking land supply to meet housing demand is not enough
  • The process of land production is tedious and time-consuming. It takes approximately 11 to 14 years for ‘potential sites’ to become ‘disposable sites’
  • Land production involves 6 major policy areas: land and town planning, land resumption, compensation, lease modification, land exchanges and land premium
  • Without a comprehensive and effective land and town planning and land administration policies, any short-to-medium land supply options to expedite the development process would render unachievable
  • To alleviate and address demand for land supply for housing, the Centre hopes to provide alternatives that may enrich society’s discussion through this research, so as to make HK a more livable, stable harmonious and competitive city

Objectives

  1. Based on the principles of fairness, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness:
    To review and analyse land and town planning and land administration policy, to evaluate the difficulties and challenges throughout the process, and provide feasible policy recommendations
  2. From the perspective of optimising land resources in the New Territories:
    To analyse two selected land supply options (namely ‘Tapping into the private agricultural land reserve in the New Territories’ and ‘More new development areas in New Territories’), to evaluate their potentials and roles in land supply for housing, and to provide feasible policy recommendations

Finding 1:
Lack of sustainable land use planning
Plot ratio is relatively low in the New Territories

  • Government has proposed plenty of planning visions; however, owing to certain external factors and market changes, relevant policies have difficulty sustaining
  • Previous planning concept, the ‘demand-led approach’ for urban development tends to be conservative, no reserve capacity to prepare for future uncertainties
  • Land in the New Territories is restricted by the inadequate provision of supporting infrastructure, resulting in low plot ratios which limits the developing potential in the area

Finding 2:
Increasing workload of Town Planning Board
Lack of coordination in districts

  • Currently, the Town Planning Board (TPB) comprises six official members and 32 non-official members. There are two Planning committees under the TPB
  • To prepare or amend statutory plans, and to handle representations and comments received from the public
  • The TPB needs to handle large amount of representations and comments from the public, and deals with Judicial Review (JR) cases where applicants mount challenge to the relevant TPB decisions through JR
  • In light of the limited manpower and time (TPB is required to complete the statutory planning process within 9 months), and a lack of mechanism that facilitates communication among stakeholders, it is arguable that TBP has sufficient time to scrutinise the applications, thereby affecting the effective operation of land and town planning

Finding 3:
Full-scale land resumption causes disputes easily
Compensation arrangements crucial to land resumption

  • In accordance with law and precedents: the Government may acquire privately owned land by invoking the Cap. 124 Lands Resumption Ordinance for public purposes; at the same time, Article 6 and 105 of the Hong Kong Basic Law guarantee private property rights, those affected by the resumption should be duly compensated
  • Legal disputes may arise due to the issues over legality, rationality and amount of compensation, progress of land resumption will be impeded
  • Following the procedures: The Government needs to duly compensate the affected parties, and compensation negotiation is time-consuming, thereby prolonging the land resumption process

Finding 4:
Land Premium assessment lacks transparency makes it difficult for public monitoring

  • Landowners intend to change the land use for residential development have to pay land premium to the Government
  • To protect both parties' interests and honour the spirit of contract, detailed information regarding the calculation and negotiation process will not be disclosed
  • Land premium is an important source of income for the Government. Lacking transparency in premium assessment makes it difficult for public monitoring

Finding 5:
Public-Private Partnership model lacks coordination and supervision
Model seen as a means of transferring benefits

  • Private developers are believed to be holding no less than 1,000 hectares of agricultural land, which has substantial potential to develop affordable housing in the New Territories
  • Even though there are support for the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model to develop housing, the model has aroused public concerns
  • Although public opinions are in favour of building public housing, the split of 60:40 between public and private housing is behind supply target
  • The implementation of PPP projects involves different policy areas. It is necessary to coordinate the actions and responses of different government departments, experts and relevant stakeholders, yet there is currently no such coordination mechanism in place

Finding 6:
Lack of coordination in New Development Areas
City’s livability needs to be enhanced

  • Since the 1970s, the Government has developed nine new towns in total to meet the housing needs of a growing population
  • The North East and North West New Territories (NT) New Development Areas, as well as the strategic growth areas in the NT North, are considered having good potential for planning and development
  • The guiding principles of previous new towns, namely ‘self-containment’ and ‘balanced development’, will not adequately help increase the livability of the city

Recommendation 1:
Reserve land for deployment and optimising land use

Introduce land reserve mechanism to develop infrastructures to release the potential land resources in the New Territories

  • Government takes the lead in planning and establishing a land reserve mechanism. Through diversified land sources, target-oriented and flexible land use and systematic land management, provide steady and sufficient land supply and attain planning goals
  • Enhance the usable capacity of the land in the New Territories and expand transport and infrastructure facilities, optimising the residential plot ratio to cope with the growth of population and housing demand

Recommendation 2:
Meritocracy and concerted efforts

Introduce self-recommendation scheme
Set up ‘Planning Coordination Committee’

  • The public may self-nominate to become members of the TPB, thereby encourage public participation in the planning process
  • Set up a Selection Committee to develop recruitment and selection mechanisms in an open and fair manner
  • To act as the ‘gatekeeper’ of planning: To assist in planning matters in the TPB so as to enhance its effectiveness; or
  • To act as a ‘coordinator’: Under the proposed ‘Planning Coordination Committee’, members should facilitate communications among applicants, affected persons and related government departments, so as to advance planning procedures

Recommendation 3:
Planning-oriented and incentivise early mover

Partially resume lands for public purpose
Increase financial incentives to expedite land acquisition

  • Partially resuming lands and smoothing the way forward by striking a reasonable balance between the societal benefits and respect for private property rights to prevent legal challenges and slow down the development process
  • Introduce an ‘Early Mover Allowance Scheme’, providing an extra payment on top of existing compensation arrangement, in order to speed up the process of land resumption
  • To incentivise occupants to relocate to new homes earlier and accelerate the land resumption progress

Recommendation 4:
Open information and a transparent mechanism

Establish lease modification and land exchange database to enhance transparency

  • Establish a lease modification and land exchange database and create a set of general principles of disclosure (covering convenience, timeliness, accuracy, authenticity, completeness, fairness and legality), to strike a balance between contract spirit and public interest
  • Release to the public more information about lease modification, land exchange and land premium including the calculation of land premium and the negotiation process
  • To strengthen people’s understanding of and confidence in the mechanism by enhancing its transparency

Recommendation 5:
A ‘sunshine policy’ warranted, land use must be for public benefit

Establish a PPP Team under PICO
PPP for public purpose is a priority

  • Set up a PPP Team under the Government's Policy Innovation and Coordination Office (PICO), which is responsible for coordinating, researching, facilitating cross-departmental collaboration and monitoring PPP housing development
  • Prioritise public purpose: A community should reserve sufficient land to build public facilities and subsidised housing (including Starter Homes units). The split of at least 60:40 between public and private housing supply should be maintained. Some subsidised housing should be built close to the railway stations or public transport facilities
  • Launch PPP projects as a pilot scheme and formulate code of practice at the early stage. A‘PPP Authority’ could be set up in the long run

Recommendation 6:
Cross-sector collaboration and people-oriented

Establish Re-tooling New Territories New Development Area Office
Build a 20-minute social neighbourhood to create a walkable, convenient and livable city

  • Set up an office under the Development Bureau to steer, coordinate, monitor and hold public consultations regarding the development of NDAs in the New Territories, in order to enhance communications with locals and to ensure a smooth development process
  • Integrate the ‘20-minute social neighbourhood’ into the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. There should also be cultural, recreational and ecological considerations, so as to create green and blue networks and make the city a vivid cultural area
  • To create a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle in a walkable, convenient and livable city

Contact

Room 604-605, 6/F, China Evergrande Centre, 38 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

(852) 3101 2888