Land contributed by third-largest developer can house "some 40,000" people in transitional housing

By Lam Ka-sing / | November 26, 2019 4:59 PM SGT
The goal for the social housing project on the 428,000 sq ft parcel in Kam Tin's Kong Ha Wai, which it calls "the biggest [such project] in Hong Kong ever", is to house almost 10,000 families, for a total of some 40,000 people, according to Henderson, the biggest hoarder of farmland.
"The company is the first to support social housing, having provided 200 units in the urban area so far and lent a construction project in Nam Cheong Street last year to build Hong Kong's first modular housing project," said Martin Lee Ka-shing, co-chairman and managing director of Henderson Land Development on Saturday.
"We hope to help grass-roots families in acute need, relieving their burden in life and improving the living environment."
Aerial view of the site Henderson Land Development will be donating to help ease the city's housing crisis. Photo: Nora Tam alt=Aerial view of the site Henderson Land Development will be donating to help ease the city's housing crisis. Photo: Nora Tam
Lee added they picked the parcel in Kong Ha Wai as it was just 15 minutes of walk away from Kam Sheung Road Station, with community facilities such as markets to cater to the daily needs of residents.
Each of the four-storey buildings will have flats between 150 to 350 sq ft for families, the elderly and disabled. Henderson will be responsible for the initial planning, while welfare organisations will be responsible for construction, choosing the families in residence, and daily management.
Augustine Wong Ho-ming, executive director of Henderson, denied that there was any self interest behind the move, such as the company benefiting from any future development in the area.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan welcomed the move, but said Henderson would not have any privileges if it took back the plot after seven years and applied for its own development.
"If the land is not used for development, basically it is possible to continue to rent it after seven years," Chan said.
The announcement comes at a time when the city's government is facing an unprecedented crisis with anti-government protests now entering its sixth month. Chinese state media earlier pointed to the city's housing crisis as a cause behind the deep-rooted social problems.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam last month revealed dozens of measures to help ease the problem in her Policy Address as a result.
Chan noted that the target to provide 10,000 transitional housing units in the Policy Address would be a challenge, but it does effectively ease the housing problem of the lower class as residents of such housing only need to spend at most 29 per cent of their household income on rent, with living area per person increased to 8.5 sq m. Henderson's plan contributes to the target.
Legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick queried the project's choice of location, scale and shortage of community facilities and transport.
The lawmaker said the parcel of land was originally part of the Planning Department's proposal in 2014 to rezone Kam Tin South for housing. At that time, the local residents strongly opposed it "because of insufficient infrastructure".
"In 2017, the government reduced the scope," Chu said. "I did not expect the government to suddenly insert 2,000 units in the rural community without overall planning on the ground of constructing transitional housing."
Henderson's 2,000 new homes would add one-third of the population to the area, said Chu. "The community can hardly bear it."
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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