Land Use Review
Land use review is a continuous process to identify sites suitable for housing or other uses amongst the existing land and reserved sites that have no development plan or for which the original purpose is no longer pursued, and to initiate change of their uses where planning terms permit. Through on-going land use reviews in the past few years, over 210 potential housing sites across 18 districts of Hong Kong (a total of approximately 500 ha) have been identified by the Government for providing over 310,000 housing units.
- These 210 sites include potential housing sites identified on government land currently under Short Term Tenancies or on sites in "G/IC", "Green Belt", "Recreation", "Agriculture", "Open Space", "Other Specified Uses" and "Industrial" zones.
- They also cover some sites in "Undetermined" zones, which are transitional in nature and subject to land use reviews/studies before their long-term uses can be decided upon.
- Land use review involves different planning and technical factors, including traffic impact, environmental impact (e.g. noise and air quality), air ventilation and visual impact, infrastructural capacity, reprovisioning of affected facilities, etc.
- There are processes before the land can be converted to housing purpose and development. These involve necessary planning process (e.g. rezoning and submission of planning applications) and other statutory procedures (e.g. gazettal of road works). Land resumption, site clearance and infrastructural works (e.g. seeking funding approval for site formation, provision or upgrading of access road or other infrastructure) may also be required.
The potential housing sites amounting to 500 ha have been counted towards the estimation of land supply over the next 30 years under Hong Kong 2030+.
In terms of number of sites, the Government has completed rezoning work of nearly half of these sites (Figure 18). The Task Force expects an uphill battle for the rezoning of the remaining sites. These 500 ha of land are crucial to meet the housing needs in the short to medium term. Therefore, the Task Force asks the Government to spare no effort in addressing the concerns of District Councils, while calling on community support for the rezoning work in the wider interests of society.
Figure 18: Progress of Rezoning over 210 Sites for Housing Development (as of early March 2018)
Another review is on the Comprehensive Development Area (CDA). CDA zoning seeks to encourage developers to assemble land for comprehensive planning and development. However, it has limited effect on increasing land supply. The Town Planning Board (TPB) will review regularly the development status of CDA sites and consider rezoning suitable sites for other uses or turning CDA site into smaller ones to facilitate the development process.
Increasing Development Intensity
Another method to expedite the housing supply is increasing development intensity. In fact, as announced in the 2014 Policy Address, except for the north of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula which are more densely populated, the maximum domestic Plot Ratio that can be allowed for housing sites located in other Density Zones of the Main Urban Areas and New Towns could be raised generally by 20% where planning terms permit.
The increase in development intensity is subject to approval by TPB. The increase in plot ratio will be approved only when there is scope in terms of development capacity, and the impact so arising, if any, in particular the traffic load can be addressed or mitigated. Between mid-2012 and end-2017, TPB has approved applications to relax the development intensity of 49 housing sites, leading to an additional supply of about 10,540 units.
Sites under Short-Term Tenancy (STT), Temporary Government Land Allocation (TGLA) and Vacant Government Sites
The Government endeavours to put government land that is not yet required for long-term development into temporary or short-term gainful use as far as possible, to avoid leaving the sites idle and make the best use of available land resource. Such sites would be made available for temporary or short-term uses usually by way of STTs (for external organisations) or TGLAs (for government bureaux/departments).
As at September 2017, there are about 5,300 STTs with a total area of approximately 2,450 ha. In terms of area, most are being used for works sites/works areas of public bodies (e.g. HA and Airport Authority Hong Kong etc.), which accounts for a total area of 1,750 ha. Among these, 1,640 ha of land is used for the works of the Airport Three-Runway System. Upon completion of the construction work, relevant STT sites for the infrastructures will be handed over to the responsible organisations for management of the facilities concerned. The major uses of other STTs include commercial use (282 ha) and not-for-profit community uses (205 ha). As for private garden use about which the public is more concerned, the area involved is 40 ha (Figure 19).
Figure 19: As at September 2017, the total area of STT sites was approximately 2,450 ha
Source: Lands Department (LandsD)
Among the 5,300 STTs, most are piecemeal pockets (Figure 20). In terms of the number of sites, over 80% are smaller than 500 m2 in size, rendering them unsuitable for independent development. Among these sites, most of them are zoned "G/IC", "Green Belt"/"Conservation Areas"/"Country Parks"/"Coastal Protection Areas", "Open Space", or other specified uses (e.g. sewage treatment works and promenades, etc.).
Figure 20: As at September 2017, there were a total of around 5,300 STTs
TGLA is the temporary allocation of government land to a government bureau/department for works or use. As at September 2017, of the 4,000 TGLAs with a total area of about 3,340 ha of land, most are being used for works sites/works areas (some 1,950 TGLAs with a total area of 2,850 ha) of Government works, such as construction of roads. Upon the expiry of the TGLAs, the works sites concerned would usually become part of the future infrastructure (as a ballpark, about two-thirds of the area used for works sites/works areas are expected to become part of the infrastructure). As for the remaining TGLA sites, they are currently used to support various government and public uses (Figure 21).
Figure 21: As at September 2017, there were a total of about 4,000 TGLAs
- Chemical waste treatment centres, driving test centres, helicopter landing sites, service reservoirs, vehicle detention pounds and other government facilities.
Any land that is not disposed of for private development (by land grant or STTs), not allocated for government uses (by Government Land Allocations or TGLAs) or any land that is not managed by government departments for specified use (examples of land managed by departments for specified use are country parks and public roads), etc. is considered vacant unleased and unallocated government land (UUGL). As at January 2018, there are 863 vacant UUGL sites (including 28 sites of vacant school premises) with a total area of some 100 ha. Many of these sites are left vacant as they cannot be put to gainful temporary uses due to their physical condition and technical constraints. A list of such sites has been uploaded onto Lands Department's (LandsD) website for application by non-government organisations (NGOs) for greening or community uses (Figure 22). Moreover, the 2018-19 Budget has earmarked 1 billion dollars to assist NGOs renting UUGL sites to undergo restoration works.
Figure 22: As at January 2018, there were 863 vacant government land available for application (area distribution)
To conclude, as part of its continuous work on land use review, the Government would review the long-term use of STT sites, TGLA sites and vacant UUGL sites to identify suitable land for housing and other purposes. Among these sites, most have long-term development plans to be implemented according to programme. Meanwhile, some sites are not necessarily suitable for high-density development as a major option of land supply due to their physical conditions (e.g. remote in location, small and piecemeal) and technical constraints (e.g. odd shape, uneven topography, involving slope).
Better Use of Vacant School Premises (VSPs)
The Government reviews VSPs through a central clearing house mechanism to see if they can be optimised by putting them into suitable alternative long-term uses (Figure 23). As at May 2017, PlanD had conducted three rounds of review and confirmed the long-term uses of 183 VSP sites under the central clearing house mechanism (Figure 24). More than 70% of these sites are less than 3,000 m2 each in area (Figure 25) and located in relatively remote rural areas lacking transport and infrastructure facilities.
The Task Force considers that there is room for PlanD to revisit the recommended long-term uses of certain VSPs taking into account their long-term uses and changes in circumstances, with a view to turning them to residential or other developments.
For VSP sites pending confirmation or implementation of their long-term uses, relevant departments will arrange temporary or short-term uses as appropriate. As mentioned above, LandsD publishes on-line the details of the VSPs available for application by NGOs for non-profit making uses.
Figure 23: Central Clearing House Mechanism for VSPs
Figure 24: Overview of 183 VSP Sites (by Long-term Use) (as at May 2017)
Figure 25: Overview of 183 VSP Sites (by Site Area) (as at May 2017)
Better Use of G/IC Sites
Generally speaking, "G/IC" zones on outline zoning plans (OZPs) are designated to provide government and other public facilities serving the needs of local residents and/or the wider district, region or the territory. Most of the G/IC sites with low-to-medium rise developments serve as spatial and visual relief in the densely built-up areas; many of these sites are located within wind or visual corridors which are essential to maintain good air ventilation and visual permeability to the subject areas. When redeveloping or developing G/IC facilities, the Government will uphold the principle of making the best use of land, to optimise the development intensity and encourage multiple use of G/IC sites.
Some suggested that the development intensity of the existing G/IC sites should be increased, or that the sites be redeveloped to optimise the potential. This suggestion is worth considering, provided that the increase in development density does not cause an adverse impact on visual, air ventilation, traffic, environment and infrastructure capacity to the surrounding areas. Redevelopment of under-utilised G/IC sites by substituting the original low-rise structures with high-rise buildings in order to provide more diversified G/IC services to the community is desirable. But due consideration has to be exercised as to how to reprovision those G/IC facilities to ensure that members of the public can continue to enjoy public services.
In order to facilitate the consolidation and provision of more G/IC facilities in a land-efficient manner, the Development Bureau (DEVB) and other bureaux and departments are considering ways to strengthen the existing mechanism of co-ordinating the planning of multi-purpose G/IC projects within the Government, with a view to effectively implementing a model of "single site, multiple use" multi-storey G/IC developments.
Better Use of Industrial Buildings
Arising from previous Area Assessments of Industrial Land in the Territory, about 260 ha of industrial land has been rezoned for other uses since 2001, including 179 ha of land rezoned for business use, 18 ha for residential use, 12 ha for "CDA" and 51 ha for G/IC, open space and other uses. In addition, the revitalisation scheme for industrial buildings running in 2010-2016 resulted in 99 approved cases for wholesale conversion and 14 for redevelopment so far; altogether, they provided a total of about 1.86 million m2 of converted or new floor area for non-industrial uses (such as hotels, offices and residential development) upon completion of works.
While not necessarily bringing about a major net gain in land supply, the above efforts in rezoning and revitalisation can enhance land use efficiency and better utilise existing land resources to meet the current needs of the economy and the community.
As the Government is considering relaunching the revitalisation scheme for industrial buildings, the Task Force suggests that the Government should look into measures from different perspectives to facilitate the transformation of industrial buildings, with a view to releasing land resources. For example, advice on revitalisation in a safe and practical manner based on fire safety assessment may be offered by the Fire Services Department to the industry practitioners.
Reviewing and Streamlining Development Control Procedures
At present, PlanD, LandsD and the Buildings Department process applications for private developments under the planning, land administration and building control regimes respectively. Given their different objectives and loci and the evolution of the three regimes over the years, there should be room to consolidate and rationalise the standards and definitions adopted by the three departments in scrutinising development projects without prejudicing relevant statutory procedures and technical requirements.
The Task Force notes that the DEVB has set up a steering group to look into the matter and has been taking stock of the views and suggestions received from stakeholders over the years with regard to the development approval process. As for the next step, proposals will be drawn up to streamline or improve the existing development control regime; stakeholders in the industry will be consulted in the process.
Through comprehensive planning, urban renewal can restructure and replan urban areas to ensure rationalised land uses with more efficient and environmentally-friendly design for regional transport and road networks. During the process, community/welfare facilities and open space can be introduced to the relevant areas, while buildings, sites and structures with historical, cultural and architectural values will be preserved and revitalised as far as practicable.
Depending on the circumstances of individual projects, the urban renewal process usually takes about 7 to 11 years from planning to completion. While the redeveloped buildings should contribute eventually to housing supply, the displacement of occupants for a prolonged period (a typical redevelopment project involves a time lag of at least 5 to 6 years between the displacement of households and completion of the new flats) gives rise to additional demand for housing and land. Moreover, as most of the sites with high redevelopment value have already been redeveloped in the past decades, there is a trend of diminishing plot ratio gains upon the redevelopment of old buildings. Therefore, the demolition and redevelopment of old buildings do not necessarily result in a substantial net gain in the number of new flats or total GFA.
According to the primary objectives of the Urban Renewal Strategy, urban renewal should be seen as a strategy to address the problem of urban decay and improve the living conditions of residents in dilapidated urban areas, rather than a major means of providing a secure and efficient source of land supply.