[HONG KONG] Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-Ying pledged to provide more land to build apartments for low-income people in a bid to lower housing prices in the world's least-affordable city.
Less than 25 per cent of Hong Kong's land has been developed, according to government figures. That is the reason housing is expensive and land supply is short, Mr Leung said Friday at a banquet hosted by the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre think tank, according to a statement on the government's website.
"Every piece of our land could be used for building houses, as long as we, the Hong Kong people, want to do it," Mr Leung said. "We should have a clear sense on what matters most and what matters little, and it looks to me making sure Hong Kong people have a place to live is the absolute No 1 priority."
The government faces opposition to plans to rezone rural green-belt sites for housing, or build new apartments in already overcrowded areas.
Increased housing density in certain areas may cause traffic jams, "but it's only a matter of inconvenience," Mr Leung said in the speech. Addressing sub-divided apartments in Hong Kong is a matter of safety, which should override inconveniences, he said.
Mr Leung's speech came just a few days after the Hong Kong leader defended his decision to postpone two phases of a large public housing project in the city's northern outskirts. Mr Leung, who must decide soon whether to seek a second five-year term as chief executive, has spent much of his tenure struggling to subdue housing costs.
Hong Kong's housing supply will reach 93,000 apartments in the next three to four years, the highest since 2004, Mr Leung said. The extra supply will help reduce prices by HK$1 million (S$175,700) per apartment, saving buyers HK$93 billion in total, he said.
"We cannot be satisfied with what we have managed to achieve," Mr Leung said, referring to the new apartments available. The only way to solve Hong Kong's housing problem "is to continue to provide more land and build more apartments," he said.