Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has suggested that the government would be able to provide affordable housing if it could develop parts of “sacred and inviolable” country parks.

Leung said at a youth summit on Saturday that Hong Kong’s residential land use makes up only seven per cent of the territory’s total area, compared to 40 per cent designated for country parks.

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CY Leung at the 2016 Youth Summit. Photo: Gov HK.

“If people allow me and the government to develop land that they consider to be sacred and inviolable – if no one opposes it – I would be able to provide housing sold at its production cost. It would be cheaper than Home Ownership Scheme flats,” Leung said.

“Even if the current and the next administrations don’t think about the relationship between residential land use and country parks, your generation still needs to give some thought to it.”

Leung added that the government needs to take into account the development of nearby cities such as Shenzhen in its future urban planning. He urged Hong Kong’s youth to take an active role in planning Hong Kong’s future.

The chief executive reiterated his position on Facebook after the event, adding that he is “willing to communicate with young people to let them understand the difficulties facing the government.”

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Hong Kong’s country park. Photo: Gov HK.

This is not the first time Leung expressed his intention to develop country parks. He said last year that places in country parks with “lower ecological value” can be used for developing housing, and sold to young people with the land premium waived.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po, who attended the event with Leung, said that the government is committed to developing brownfields. He apologised for the slow progress, and said he welcomed criticism from the public.

Chan also said last year that he would not consider developing the land in country parks during his term.

An audience member at the summit criticised the government for not having adequate public consultation. Lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick told Apple Daily that Leung’s suggestion was only a gimmick and could not provide an immediate solution. He said that the government could already help many in need of housing if it redevelops old buildings into affordable – rather than luxury – apartments.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.