Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po has dismissed claims that Hong Kong would not need to find land for housing if the number of new immigrants was curbed. He called such claims “fallacies of bias or oversimplification” made on the basis of misunderstanding.

Chan took to his weekly online blog on Sunday to say that the government has been “listening humbly” to criticism over its non-efficient use of land. It has conducted many reviews on finding land and making the best use of it as a result, he wrote.

Paul Chan Mo-po
Secretary of Development Paul Chan Mo-po. File Photo: GovHK.

Commenting on claims that the government has no need to find new land because Hong Kong’s population increase will slow down and because there is a large number of unused land, unused flats, brownfield sites and village areas in the New Territories, Chan listed eight arguments countering the claims.

“These claims often come from misunderstanding, and are prone to fallacies of bias or oversimplification,” he wrote.

He said there was a population increase of 9.1 per cent and a 21.2 per cent increase in number of households between 2000 and 2015, but the amount of land developed over the same period has increased by only 17 per cent or around 3,800 hectares, much lower than the 8,000 hectares developed in the preceding 15-year period.

He added that, by government estimation, Hong Kong’s population will still rise by 13.5 per cent or 980,000 between 2014 and 2044, and the number of households will also increase by 20.4 per cent since the average number of people in a household will drop.

“In the next 30 years, just to accommodate the new households, Hong Kong will need to increase one-fifth of housing volume, not counting the current 90,000 households living in sub-divided flats and the 290,000 cases of public housing applications that have yet to be handled,” he wrote.

Mosquito sized apartments
Subdivided units. Photo: Benny Lam.

He dismissed claims that curbing the number of new immigrants would eradicate the need to find new land for development. “If the average household size decreases, it will cause an increase in the number of households and thus housing needs.”

“Stopping the entry of one way permit holders who mostly come to Hong Kong for family reunion will cause great controversy – not only will it deteriorate Hong Kong’s problem of an aging population, it is not ethical and without legal basis,” Chan wrote. “Stopping the import of overseas talent from different sectors will affect Hong Kong’s international competitiveness and economic growth, making it more difficult to improve livelihood.”

He said the city’s workforce will start to shrink in a few years, and that increasing population is a must unless there is a great leap in productivity.

Another land problem, Chan said, is the need for buffer flats for urban redevelopment projects.

Citing research by consultancy Demographia, Chan said Hong Kong has the highest density of all developed cities.

“To accommodate all new population and households on current developed land will further increase Hong Kong’s population density, which is against the public’s general vision of living in a bigger and better space,” he said. “Therefore, it will be an impossible mission to not develop new land, while at the same time maintaining or even improving life quality.”

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

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.