Motion on “Promoting the Redevelopment of Aged Public Housing Estates” (2022.11.10)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Thank you, Deputy President. The housing problem has always been a sore point for Hong Kong people. In recent years, the Government has made continuous efforts and succeeded in identifying sufficient land to meet the demand for public housing in the next 10 years. However, housing production is not something that cannot be done overnight. Distant water cannot put out a nearby fire. The latest waiting time for public housing allocation has reached six years. In his first Policy Address, the Chief Executive has proposed to build Light Public Housing, significantly compress the land production time and cap the waiting time for public housing at 4.5 years in four years’ time, so as to further reduce the people’s waiting time. These measures, involving many complicated policy factors, are bound to encounter a lot of obstructions. Refusing to shy away from difficulties and taking the initiative to meet challenges, the new Government has precisely demonstrated its determination and boldness.

Today, Mr LEUNG Man-kwong has proposed the motion on “Promoting the redevelopment of aged public housing estates”, so as to improve the living environment of residents and increase the supply of public housing in the long run. I support it in principle. As a matter of fact, in 2013, the Hong Kong Housing Authority conducted an assessment study on the redevelopment of 22 aged estates, but currently, it has only planned to redevelop 3 estates. At present, among all the rental estates in Hong Kong, including those of the Hong Kong Housing Society, 1 is 70 years old, 4 are some 60 years old, and more than 10 are aged 40 to 60. Many of these estates are ageing and really need redevelopment.

In fact, the relevant proposal was discussed in the Legislative Council a few years ago. At that time the Government pointed out that given the need to allocate public housing units to residents affected by redevelopment, the public housing supply would consequently reduce. The waiting time would turn out to be lengthened, while the launch of the redeveloped units would take years. If the objective was to increase the public housing supply in the short term, redevelopment was not a good option. The Government also assured that it would conduct comprehensive inspection of all the old estates to ensure the structural safety of the buildings.

Although there is some reason in the Government’s argument, it should not slow down the pace of redevelopment on this ground. The Government’s view is too conservative. In fact, although the buildings in these old estates do not pose any immediate danger, they are ageing internally and often have problems such as water leakage, flaking ceilings, spalling of concrete and exposure of steel bars. At the same time, many old housing estates are plagued by rodent infestation with poor environmental hygiene. As the buildings get older, these problems will only get worse, causing great distress to the residents. If we really have to wait until there is an adequate supply of public housing, it is likely that these old estates will not have any chance to be redeveloped until they are as old as 80 or 90.

Besides, although it is necessary to rehouse residents and a new estate will take about 10 years to complete, redevelopment will bring many benefits to society upon completion. Apart from resolving the residents’ predicament, it can also beautify the environment and improve the people’s living. Yet most importantly, redevelopment can increase the public housing supply in the long run. The new estates can fully utilize the plot ratios. Moreover, as suggested by the Institute of Surveyors, the height of new estates can be increased to 50 storeys. In that case, the supply of housing units can be increased by 25%. Hence, redevelopment has both advantages and difficulties, but if we do not conduct redevelopment now because of the difficulties, the problem will only drag on for another 10 to 20 years, and the trouble will be even greater by then. It is better to endure a short-term pain rather than prolonging the pain. The Government should be resolute in conducting redevelopment.

As regards the rehousing issue, there are also solutions. Wah Fu Estate is exactly an example of the Government’s boldness in doing something unconventional. The Government has converted several Green Belt sites in the vicinity of Wah Fu Estate into rehousing estates to facilitate in-situ rehousing for the residents. The Government should continue to follow this approach to identify redevelopment opportunities for the other old estates. In addition, various Members have suggested progressive clearance by the approach of “ants moving home”. At present, there are vacant schools and markets in many estates which may be converted into temporary housing for rehousing purposes. At the same time, there are also quite a number of spacious open spaces in the estates where the Government may consider “infill” developments. It may also borrow some of the park areas to build temporary housing. Lastly, it may even subsidize residents’ purchases of flats under the Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme. Therefore, solutions are definitely available. As long as the Government is not afraid of encountering difficulties, it is absolutely feasible to progressively take forward the concept and work of redevelopment with the spirit of “ants moving home”.

Thank you, Deputy President.

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