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Hong Kong eyes sea and golf courses to solve chronic housing

But proposal to build four artificial islands in its central waters draws flak from environmentalists

Hong Kong

HONG KONG'S limited supply of land has forced it to look at unusual and costly options to address a chronic homes shortage in the world's least-affordable housing market.

One of the ideas the government is considering is to build four artificial islands in its central waters. This would cost HK$500 billion (S$86.5 billion), the South China Morning Post reported.

The city's chief executive Carrie Lam is also examining proposals ranging from converting parts of private golf courses to developing a disused container terminal.

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Hong Kong, rated by the Demographia International Housing Affordability Study as the least-affordable housing market in the world for the ninth straight year, has faced public protests against the artificial islands.

A November 2018 poll showed 49 per cent of the public opposes the plan and lawmaker Albert Lai, founding vice-chairman of the pro-democracy Civic Party, said the project would sacrifice Hong Kong's more urgent needs for an expensive and environmentally questionable undertaking.

Hong Kong's sprawling country parks, which had been mooted as possible sites for development, make up about 40 per cent of its territory, while less than 7 per cent is devoted to housing.

These are some of the government's options under consideration:

Golf course conversion

The historic Hong Kong Golf Club, home of the Hong Kong Open, is located on 172 hectares in the New Territories Fanling district and part of it could be bulldozed to make way for homes if the government decides to go ahead.

The course has a lease until 2020 on a site occupied since 1911.

Farmland Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land Development, New World Development and CK Asset Holdings are sitting on land banks holding more than 1,000 hectares of unused farmland.

These could yield 500,000 new homes over the next 25 years, according to CLSA chief executive officer Jonathan Slone.

Container terminal

The government could convert the privately run 49-berth River Trade Terminal in Tuen Mun into a residential area.

The facility in Tuen Mun became redundant after competition in the Pearl River Delta increased.

Artificial islands

Unpopular with environmentalists for its impact on marine life is a proposal by Mrs Lam to build artificial islands on an area of 1,700 hectares between Lantau Island and Hong Kong Island.

It was estimated this would add as many as 400,000 housing units for an estimated 1.1 million people starting in 2032. BLOOMBERG