DAB demands action on snail-pace public housing

Top News | Charlotte Luo 12 Sep 2019

Hong Kong's biggest political party, the DAB, is making a highly visible argument for the Lands Resumption Ordinance to be used to increase land supply for public housing ahead of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's policy address.

The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong is doing so in claiming that authorities have been going about the land challenge at a snail's pace.

The pitch for the administration to invoke the ordinance came in a full-page newspaper advertisement yesterday.

But the Democratic Party said the DAB's citing of the ordinance was "suspicious," coming as it did two months before crucial district council elections.

Facing the press yesterday, DAB chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king said party representatives met Lam last month to express their expectations of the policy address and offered several suggestions on land and housing, including using the ordinance.

But Lam did not respond directly to the ordinance suggestion, Lee said.

The ordinance has been used 13 times to take back land to build public housing since 1997.

And the DAB was echoing a long-standing proposal by the Democratic Party to invoke the Land Resumption Ordinance for taking private land to build public housing.

Democratic Party legislator Andrew Wan Siu-kin told The Standard yesterday he is "99.9 percent sure" that Lam will agree with the use of the ordinance and announce it in her policy address because of pressure on the administration.

"The DAB's change of stance is suspicious," he added, seeing it as an attempt to win votes in November's district council polls now that the party is facing pressure for having backed a move to change the fugitive ordinance, which has now been withdrawn.

Previously, DAB members had opposed using the Lands Resumption Ordinance to increase land supply.

But Lee disagreed with the assertion the DAB has changed its position, claiming her party "has always supported" the use of the ordinance for housing development.

Lee also said Lam did not need to wait for next month's policy address to commence action on land.

The DAB noted there is a huge shortfall in land for public housing, so the administration should concentrate on planning public housing projects, pointing to 220 hectares of brownfield sites in the New Territories. This is in line with public opinion, it added.

The party also hopes to see waiting time for public housing for some 150,000 people in the queue cut to three years.

But even if all the land under government control is used for public housing, the DAB added, only 248,000 public units can be built in the next 10 years. That would be 67,000 less than the goal of 315,000 by 2029.

The chief executive also told the Democratic Party last year that the Lands Resumption Ordinance should not be invoked arbitrarily as "owners whose private ownership is being infringed upon will apply for judicial review against the government."

Starry Lee and DAB partymate Wilson Or Chong-shing voted "no" and the party's Edward Lau Kwok-fan did not vote on a motion moved by Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun in January to use the ordinance and other measures to increase housing supply.

Still, Stewart Leung Chi-kin, executive committee chairman of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong, said the DAB's current effort was a good move as reclamation would take too long to help resolve an urgent housing shortage problem.

But some property developers would not agree, he added.

Stock prices of some major developers jumped yesterday.

New World Development rose 2.75 percent to HK$10.46, CK Asset Holdings was up 2.98 percent to HK$57.10, and Henderson Land Development rose 4.3 percent to HK$38.80.

charlotte.luo@singtaonewscorp.com

Editorial: New chapter for Lam in housing

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