Political agendas to blame for land woes, says Chan

Top News | Amy Nip and Leung Pak-hei 17 Sep 2021

The opposition is to blame for the land shortage and sky-high property prices, says Ronnie Chan Chi-chung, chairman of Hang Lung Property.

But a land concern group rebutted that developers - instead of opposition politicians - should be blamed for the housing problem.

In the developer's interim report, Chan said opposition lawmakers intentionally stopped efforts to increase land supply to spark public discontent against the government as part of their separatist plot.

"Knowing how sensitive housing was to the local populace, the opposition's tactic was simple they thwarted all government land sales efforts including any related legislation," Chan said.

"Examples include landfill projects, new town developments and rezoning efforts.

"With pitifully little land supply, residential prices soared. They blamed the government for incompetence and [said] it must be brought down."

Chan also blamed the "populist press" for making the public - including grassroots people and the educated - believe the government is to blame over the housing shortage.

"At issue was not economics - it was politics. What was unfortunate was that such a populist narrative had been bought - hook, line and sinker - by our community," he said.

Chan challenged that the government has no reason not to sell land as it would become "public enemy."

He said Hong Kong's first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa announced plans in 1997 to provide 85,000 units per year for multiple years.

Unfortunately, the Asian financial crisis struck on July 2, 1997, and the plan was inevitably scrapped, he said.

Successive governments failed to do so because the opposition obstructed it.

"This was critical to their political game plan as spelled out earlier," he said.

But Chan Kim-ching, a member of the Liber Research Community, believed developers - instead of opposition lawmakers - should be blamed for Hong Kong's housing problem.

"The developers have huge political influence and would hinder the government's land policies if their interests were affected. The developers have the greatest responsibility in causing the city's housing problem," he said.

Chan Kim-ching said the government's land policies are inclined toward developers' interests.

"For example, for development of northeast New Territories, the government chose to develop land accumulated by developers instead of opting for other popular choices, such as developing brownfield sites and the Fanling Golf Course," he said.

Chan Kim-ching suggested the government should favor the developers less in its land policies and choose to develop areas that would be less controversial to solve the housing problem.

"Brownfield land, vacant government sites and land with short-term tenancy are good choices for development and building housing," he said.



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