A group of Kai Tak residents rallied outside Hong Kong’s Central Government Offices to oppose a proposed short-term public housing project in their district, saying the plan would negatively impact the area’s outlined transformation into the city’s second central business district (CBD).

A group of Kai Tak residents rallied outside of Central Government Offices in objection of the Light Public Housing project in their area. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

A resident of private housing estate One Kai Tak, who gave his surname as Lee, read out a letter from the group to the Secretary for Housing Winnie Ho on Tuesday morning.

“The government never consulted Kai Tak residents before deciding on the location of the Light Public Housing (LPH) project in Kai Tak,” Lee said.

The short-term housing initiative was introduced in Chief Executive John Lee’s maiden Policy Address as a solution to alleviate the city’s years-long waits for public rental housing.

The Kai Tak site promises 10,700 LPH units, which will take two years to construct and then be retired after five years of use.

Mr. Lee read out the letter on behalf of 20 Kai Tak residents who rallied against the Light Public Housing plan in their district on February 7, 2023. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

However, the rallying residents said “it was a mistake” for the government to use land originally planned for Hong Kong’s “CBD 2.0” for short-term public housing.

“The ‘2+5’ timeframe set by the government will delay key CBD developments in Kai Tak for 10 to 20 years. The negative impact will definitely not be temporary,” the letter wrote.

The group said it supported the LPH policy and only objected to the choice of land in Kai Tak, adding it was concerned with “the long-term benefit of Hong Kong and all residents in the city.”

A group of 20 Kai Tak residents submitted a letter objecting the construction of Light Public Housing in their district to a government representative. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The idea of turning Kai Tak into Hong Kong’s second CBD was introduced by former chief executive Carrie Lam in 2011, when she was the secretary for development.

Many of the ambitious plans laid out more than a decade ago have yet to be realised – including a monorail – while some sites earmarked for commercial development have been rezoned for housing. A number of private housing complexes remain under construction, and several residential and commercial plots have yet to be sold.

Kai Tak resident Lee said government officials had said they would visit the district and meet with residents on Monday night, but had called off the meeting at the last minute. “We are very disappointed,” he added.

The group did not take any questions from reporters.

‘Urgent need’

Meeting the press on Tuesday morning, the Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan said the plots lent for LPH were those not currently in use.

“We generally only use the land for around five years. Then we will return it for its original development use,” Chan said.

Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan. File photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The number two official added that he understood people would have “different considerations” on how property prices may be affected by plans to build LPH in the area.

“People who are living in subdivided flats or places with poor living environments are in urgent need of the government’s help,” Chan said.

“I believe that if everyone has the heart to help solve their housing difficulties… if everyone thinks in this way, all other problems will be easily resolved,” he added.

Lawmaker Kitson Yang, who represents the geographical constituency Kowloon Central, which Kai Tak falls under, raised residents’ resistance to building LPH in the area last week, saying that it could obstruct the views of those living in private complexes.

In particular, lower-level residents of The Latitude – a luxury residential complex above shopping mall Mikiki in nearby San Po Kong – would have their view “completely blocked,” Yang said.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.