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HK developer Wheelock donates land to mitigate housing crisis

Hong Kong

WHEELOCK Properties has announced plans to donate several plots of land to charity for social housing in Hong Kong, following in the footsteps of fellow developers as anti-government protests continue to dog the city.

Hong Kong-based Wheelock will hand over 500,000 square feet of land in the New Territories and Lantau Island to non-government organisations for a nominal sum of HK$1 (S$0.17) for each plot.

The plots can be used to construct apartments for people waiting for public housing and around 6,000 families are expected to benefit. The area represents approximately 7 per cent of the developer's total land bank.

Wheelock is the third top developer to pledge to help solve the housing shortage in Hong Kong - the world's least affordable home market - as pro-democracy demonstrations cripple the city's economy, deterring tourists and mainland shoppers alike.

Chinese state media has lambasted Hong Kong's home builders for fuelling young people's anger by pushing up property prices. The city's property tycoons have responded by offering land in the New Territories, where they have vast amounts of stock.

In September, New World Development became the first to announce a donation of almost 20 per cent of its land bank to charity. Henderson Land Development, which has previous experience in social housing, followed suit less than two months later, saying it would give 428,000 sq ft of land for the construction of so-called transitional housing.

Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing has offered HK$1 billion, rather than land, for small and medium-sized businesses.

The city's income inequality, as expressed in the Gini coefficient, was the most for any developed economy in 2016 at a 45-year high.

About one in five residents live below the poverty line; some people have resorted to living illegally in steel boxes or industrial estates because they cannot afford a home.

Shares of parent company Wheelock & Co were little changed on Monday. The stock has risen 15.3 per cent this year. BLOOMBERG