The Hong Kong government’s Northern Metropolis scheme – a bid to house around 2.5 million people in the New Territories – is expected to cost at least HK$100 billion, the city’s financial minister has said.

The amount was unveiled on Wednesday during the announcement of the annual budget for 2022 to 2023, and marked the first time a price tag has been put on the large-scale development plan. The HK$100 billion was for “expediting the implementation of infrastructure works relating to land, housing and transportation within the Northern Metropolis,” Financial Secretary Paul Chan said. It is unlikely to cover the total cost of the scheme.

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The plan was first proposed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in the final policy address of her term last October, when she said the cost of the project had “yet to be calculated.”

Chan said he would earmark HK$100 billion to establish a dedicated fund under the Capital Works Reserve Fund to speed up the implementation of infrastructure works related to land, housing and transportation within the Northern Metropolis, which is expected to cover a total area of around 300 square kilometres.

Yuen Long Kai Shan Shenzhen New Territories
The view from Kai Shan at Yuen Long. Across the harbour is the Chinese city of Shenzhen. Photo: GovHK.

The project also aims to provide land to foster innovation and technology development in Hong Kong, Chan said.

The funds announced on Wednesday will come from cumulative returns from the Future Fund, which was set up in December 2015 by the then-financial minister John Tsang with an aim to secure higher investment returns for fiscal reserves.

Finance chief Paul Chan
Finance chief Paul Chan delivers the 2022 budget via video. Photo: GovHK.

“Both the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy and Lantau Tomorrow plan are important initiatives for increasing land supply, through which housing supply can be substantially increased,” Chan said.

Despite the figure announced on Wednesday, the total estimated cost of the project remains unknown. The price tag was widely discussed following the Policy Address, as lawmakers including Regina Ip of the New People’s Party questioned how the government would fund the project in view of predicted budget deficits.

Public Finance Budget 2022
An infographic showing the total government revenue and expenditure for the year 2022-2021. Photo: GovHK.

Chan said on Wednesday that Hong Kong is projected to see a surplus of HK$18.9 billion for the year 2021/2022, while the city may face an estimated deficit of HK$56.3 billion for 2022/2023.

The Northern Metropolis plan seeks to provide more than 900,000 homes and generate around 650,000 jobs by integrating development projects in “mature new towns” including Tin Shui Wai, Yuen Long, Fanling and Sheung Shui, as well as areas in different stages of development such as Kwu Tung North, Hung Shui Kiu, San Tin, Lok Ma Chau and Man Kam To. 

Policy Address 2021 Northern Metropolis
Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Hong Kong’s leader Lam said in her policy address that the “metropolitan area” would be the “most vibrant” district for the city’s urban development and population growth in the next two decades.

The development strategy would also help Hong Kong better respond to opportunities presented in its cooperation with the mainland city of Shenzhen across the border, she said.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.