Hong Kong is stepping up its efforts to provide more homes for the city’s poorest after approving another batch of so-called transitional housing proposals even as officials seek to revive the pandemic-ravaged economy.
The Town Planning Board on Friday signed off on a plan by Wheelock Properties to build 1,236 units to help bridge a demand and supply imbalance in public housing. The board had earlier approved 3,800 units to be built on sites leased from two other private developers last year.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in January last year pledged to supply 15,000 units of transitional homes over a three-year period. The city’s administrators and private developers came under criticism by mainland Chinese media, who blamed unaffordable housing for stoking social unrest until the national security law came into effect late June.
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Almost 1,200 transitional homes have been completed through March this year, according to the Transport and Housing Bureau. A task force under the bureau has separately identified land for building 14,000 units by 2023, according to a submission to the Legislative Council earlier this month.
Transitional homes are built for low-income groups who have not been able to move into public housing. The average waiting time for such a facility in Hong Kong is 5½ years, with more than 155,000 applicants on the waiting list.
They are built on government land or on idle land banks leased by charity organisations for a token sum from some of the city’s richest private developers including Wheelock Properties, Henderson Land, Sun Hung Kai Properties and New World Development.
Wheelock on Friday was given the consent to develop 1,236 units in 11 low-rise blocks at Wong Yue Tan, near Tai Po Industrial Estate in New Territories. It loaned the site to a charity in 2019 for eight years at a token sum of HK$1. Each unit measures about 200 square feet, it said.
“It is the first transitional housing project we obtained approval from TPB after we supported the government [to provide social housing] in 2019,” managing director Ricky Wong Kwong-yiu said by phone. The charity could seek government funding to pay for the development, he added.
Also on Friday, the Town Planning Board separately gave the greenlight to the government to build 900 units on its on own land at Tsat Sing Kong in Pat Heung, also in New Territories.
Hong Kong’s government raised its funding allocation for transitional housing to HK$5 billion from HK$2 billion in October 2019.
Under scrutiny from mainland authorities and the Hong Kong public, Wheelock has loaned three sites to charity organisations to build such homes to cater for more than 6,000 families. Two other sites – in Tuen Mun and Tung Chung in New Territories - are undergoing feasibility studies, Wong said.
The Town Planning Board last year approved an 1,800-unit project at Tung Tau in Yuen Long, New Territories, by Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare. The charity has obtained a HK$990 million funding to work on a site it leased from Sun Hung Kai Properties.
Another 2,000 units of homes at Kam Tin, also in New Territories, was approved for building on a piece of land leased from Henderson Land Development. That plan was approved by the board in June last year.
New World Development is in the midst of planning three transitional housing projects offering 2,000 units in Yuen Long, New Territories, with more than 2,000 units. The first, known as “Light Village” for 100 families, could be reviewed by the board next month, a company spokesperson said, while two others are pending submission.
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