A former top official for housing has said that it is impossible to satisfy indigenous villagers’ demand for small houses indefinitely.

Under the Small House Policy, an indigenous male villager descended through the male line from a resident in 1898 of a recognised village in the New Territories is entitled to one concessionary, non-transferable land grant during his lifetime to build a small house.

Former Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung said on a RTHK programme that he once considered allowing small houses to be built higher than the currently mandated three storeys, thereby resulting fewer houses and saving precious land resources.

He added that such a plan would still work today.

Michael Suen.
Michael Suen. File Photo: Stand News.

“How do you satisfy [the need]? They will keep producing new generations; the policy cannot be allowed to continue,” Suen said. “People have to agree on a date that the small house right should end, in ten or 20 years – to allow enough time for preparation so that the benefits of current right holders are not hurt.”

Suen said that he discussed the proposal with the Heung Yee Kuk, which represents the interests of indigenous villagers, informally when he was an official, and he felt that they were open to further discussions.

When Suen took the post in 2002, he said that he hoped to solve the issue in his five-year term, but admits he was naive in this ambition.

Suen also commented on the qualities that the next Chief Executive should possess: namely, the ability to create a harmonious political environment, the willingness to fight for Hong Kong’s interests, and the ability to take care of both “one country” and “two systems” without ignoring the fact that Hong Kong is now a part of China.

Another key quality would be the public’s approval, he added.

Suen said that he does have a suitable candidate in his mind, and would not rule out the possibility of campaigning for him or her in future.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.