An urban planning research group has said that Hong Kong’s government and Task Force on Land Supply has failed to consider developing swathes of brownfield sites. The total size of the available land – which could be used to tackle the housing crisis – is four times larger than Tsuen Wan town centre.

The Liber Research Community said in a new report that it had identified 1,172 hectares of brownfield sites in the New Territories, of which 723 hectares were not included in any development plans.

The government has often been criticised for prioritising the use of more valuable greenbelt land rather than brownfield sites – often farmland polluted by industrial activity.

Liber Research Community
Chan Kim-ching, Brian Wong and Yeung Ha-chi. Photo: In-Media.

The group said that a third of the 723-hectare brownfield sites not included in any development projects could still be used to construct around 84,000 rural-type public housing projects.

The report identified 94 areas of brownfield land clusters spanning two hectares – seven of which were larger than 30 hectares. The findings contradict a previous suggestion by the government’s Task Force on Land Supply that Hong Kong’s brownfield sites were scattered and impractical to use.

Brownfield sites
Brownfield sites larger than 2 hectares that have yet to be developed. Photo: Liber Research Community.

The group said the task force did not reveal official brownfield site data, leading the public to be misled and believe that land supply was short.

Brian Wong, a member of the group, said there were past examples of building rural-type public housing developments.

“We have past instances, the demand, and the land – we only need the determination of the government to solve the issue,” he said.

A brownfield site in Wang Toi Shan, June 2017. Photo: Liber Research Community.

He said the government had used the powerful Lands Resumption Ordinance to claw back land for previous development plans in the North Eastern New Territories and for urban renewal projects.

“Using the same standards, it would only take three months… to take back a large amount of brownfield land. But the Task Force on Land Supply has ignored this, agreeing to the government’s proposal of public-private sector cooperation to turn farmland into private housing, ignoring local people’s needs.”

The group suggested that environmental remediation could be conducted for brownfield sites, and development plans could go ahead if remediation is not feasible.

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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.