英文

Editorial:The lack of progress in finding land and build housing calls for simplification of procedures

【明報專訊】Hong Kong has a pressing land and housing problem. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that the government will redouble its efforts in the coming year and continue to show ''the courage to open up land''. But she has not come up with anything new. The ''five ways to increase housing and land supply'' that she mentioned are directions that have been talked about for a long time, but she has failed to commit herself to specific measures, such as the reintroduction of the vacancy tax on first-hand buildings and a review of urban planning regulations to shorten the time for land development.

It takes a government's perseverance, as well as the courage to stick to its policies despite short-term fluctuations in the economy and property prices, to tackle the problem of land and housing. However, views differ as to whether this government has demonstrated such perseverance and courage. The government can argue that land development cannot be accomplished overnight, and that the anti-extradition storm and the pandemic that have hit the city one after another have caused disruptions to its work on finding land and putting up housing. But now the situation in Hong Kong has generally stabilised, and the government is facing less resistance to its governance. It can now do more practical work. It must find land and put up housing with much greater efficiency to make up for lost time. Carrie Lam mentioned that the government is simultaneously promoting large-scale development projects in Tung Chung and North District and is making good use of brownfield sites and farmland to increase land supply. It is also implementing a Land Sharing Pilot Scheme and reclaiming private land. However, if the authorities really have the determination and courage to find land, they can definitely make greater and faster steps to search for land and construct housing. The Land Sharing Pilot Scheme, which is a public-private partnership, has not seen the active participation of developers. In the year before last, the government proposed in the policy address to invoke the Lands Resumption Ordinance more to build public housing, but so far only 3 plots of land, totaling 1.2 hectares, have been recovered. Very little progress has been made in the implementation of the Lantau Tomorrow Vision project. Late last year, the Finance Committee approved funding for its research, and contracts with consultancies were approved only last month. As the government is making slow progress in finding land and building housing, it must be more decisive in terms of the resumption of land or near-shore land reclamation so that the situation will not deteriorate further. It cannot baulk at action just because of the opposition of vested interests. In addition, the authorities must drastically streamline the land development procedures and effectively improve the efficiency of land creation.

The Kwu Tung North New Development Area was proposed when Carrie Lam was Secretary for Development. But it remains incomplete even though more than ten years have passed. To significantly speed up the creation of land, it is necessary to break down barriers. To re-examine urban planning regulations and procedures for environmental assessments is not to forgo environmental protection. It is about whether it is possible to compress the procedure and save time. In terms of housing policies, the government has achieved some breakthroughs in terms of rental control and offering financial support to those waiting for public housing. But the government can still do a lot of things. A few years ago, the government proposed a vacant tax for first-hand properties to increase housing supply in the market. Now Carrie Lam has suddenly refused to promise to relaunch the initiative citing the ''free economy'' and ''a simple tax system''. It is not understandable why the government has fundamentally rejected something that it thought was achievable in the past. That also makes people doubtful about the government's courage.

明報社評 2021.07.16:覓地建屋進度不理想 精簡流程須大破大立

香港土地房屋問題水深火熱,行政長官林鄭月娥表示,政府未來一年將加倍努力,繼續展現「開拓土地的勇氣」,惟未見有何新猷,所謂「五方面增加房屋土地供應」,都是談論多時的工作方向;論及具體措施,諸如重推一手樓空置稅、檢視城規條例縮短土地開發時間等,林鄭均沒有作出承諾。

解決土地房屋問題,確需持之以恒的決心,以及不因經濟、樓價短期波動升跌而動搖政策的勇氣,至於本屆政府是否「已實現這種決心和勇氣」,相信言人人殊。政府可以辯稱,土地開發非朝夕之工,反修例風暴和疫情接踵而來,打亂了覓地建屋工作,然而現在香港局面已大致回穩,政府施政阻力減少,可以多做實事,覓地建屋效率必須顯著提高,追回之前耽誤的時間。林鄭提到,政府正同步推展東涌及北區大型發展項目,善用棕地農地開拓土地供應,推行土地共享先導計劃、收回私人土地等,然而如果當局真的有決心和勇氣,覓地建屋步伐絕對可以更大更快。土地共享公私營合作,未見發展商積極參與;前年施政報告提出多用《收回土地條例》建公屋,迄今只收回3幅地皮,合計1.2公頃;明日大嶼計劃,十劃只得一撇,去年底財委會通過研究撥款,顧問合約上月才批出。政府覓地建屋進度大落後,為免情况惡化,無論收回土地還是近岸填海等,都要更加果斷,不能因為既得利益反對,便投鼠忌器。此外,當局亦要大刀闊斧精簡開發土地程序,切實提升造地效率。

古洞北發展區計劃,早在林鄭擔任發展局長時已提出,十多年後仍未完成。政府若要顯著加快造地,必須突破現有條條框框,重新檢視城規條例及環評等流程,不是要放棄環保等原則,而是看看可否壓縮程序,節省時間。房屋政策方面,現屆政府在租務管制、資助輪候公屋者方面,確有一些突破,然而當局仍有很多事情可做。數年前,政府提出開徵一手樓空置稅,為的是增加市場供應,現在林鄭突以「自由經濟」、「簡單稅制」之名,拒絕承諾重推。當日政府認為可行之事,這一刻卻從根本原則去否定,令人不明所以,也懷疑當局的勇氣。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

commit yourself to sth:to give an opinion or make a decision openly so that it is then difficult to change it

accomplish /əˈkʌmplɪʃ/

to succeed in doing or completing sth

efficiency /ɪˈfɪʃnsi/

the quality of doing sth well with no waste of time or money

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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