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LCQ1: Small House Policy

     Following is a question by the Hon Dennis Kwok and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 18):


     Under the small house policy, a New Territories indigenous male villager over 18 years old is entitled to one concessionary grant during his lifetime to build one small house.  The Government indicated in October 2012 that, of the 1 300 hectares of idle land, 932 hectares had been zoned for "Village Type Development", and the planned use of such type of sites was mainly for the development of small houses by indigenous villagers. On the other hand, the general public have keen demand for residential housing (including public and private housing), but scarcity of land is a major factor restraining housing supply. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the estimated current number of New Territories indigenous villagers eligible for applying for building small houses, and the area of government lands reserved for building small houses;

(2) whether it has drawn up any plan to cope with the situation where there are not enough government lands for building small houses; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it has plans to formulate policies and measures to reduce the area and proportion of lands planned for building small houses, so as to release more land for developing public and private housing; if it does, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Small House Policy (the Policy) has been implemented since 1972.  Under the Policy, a male indigenous villager aged 18 years old or above who is descended through the male line from a resident in 1898 of a recognised village in the New Territories may apply to the authority once during his lifetime for permission to build for himself a small house on a suitable site within his own village. There are in total 642 recognised villages approved in the territory.

     In general, land suitable for building small houses is confined to areas within Village Environs (VE). As a general rule, VE refers to a 300-feet radius from the edge of the last village type house built before the introduction of the Policy on December 1, 1972. Applications for building small houses within this area by eligible indigenous villagers may be considered.

     Separately, the "Village Type Development" one ("V" zone) is a land use zoning under the statutory plans drawn up in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131). Generally speaking, the planning intention of the "V" zone, which covers recognised villages, is to designate the boundaries of both existing recognised villages and areas of land considered suitable for village expansion. The land within this zone is primarily intended for development of small houses by indigenous villagers, which usually overlaps with the VE.

     Consideration may also be given to an application if the proposed small house site lies outside a VE but is located within a "V" zone on the relevant statutory plan, provided that the "V" zone concerned is surrounded by or overlaps with the VE. As regards sites within a VE but outside a "V" zone, depending on the requirements of the land use zone on which the proposed small house site lies, applications for planning permission may be submitted to the Town Planning Board.

     Regarding the area of unleased or unallocated government land within the "V" zones, the Government has clarified in its reply to a Legislative Council question on October 17, 2012 that the relevant figures were obtained simply by subtracting the leased or allocated areas under respective land use zonings from the total areas covered by such zones on the statutory plans. Of such areas, there are around 1 200 hectares of unleased or unallocated government land within the "V" zones, scattered across the territory and covering over 500 recognised villages. The area also includes slopes, passageways, spaces between village houses and other fragmented sites generally not suitable for development, etc. To facilitate understanding by the public, we have, since October 2012, uploaded the map of the then unleased or unallocated government land within the "V" zones to the website of the Development Bureau.

     My reply to various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) The Lands Department is unable to compile statistics on or estimate the existing number of indigenous villagers in recognised villages, who are 18 years old or above and are eligible but have not applied for a small house grant. It is because the number changes with the birth, growth and passing away of indigenous villagers. Besides, whether or not an indigenous villager would apply for a small house grant is dependent on his own circumstances and wishes, and not all eligible indigenous villagers aged 18 years or above will submit an application.

     In designating the "V" zones, the Planning Department will consider a series of planning factors including the VE of existing villages and recognised villages, the local topography, the existing settlement pattern, site characteristics and the surrounding environment, environmental constraints, as well as the estimate of demand for small houses in the coming ten years, etc. Areas of difficult terrain, dense vegetation, burial grounds, stream courses and ecologically sensitive areas are not included in the "V" zones where possible.

     As aforementioned, the area of land zoned "V" is not equivalent to the land area available for small house development. For example, there are still a number of land areas with irregular shapes, or are passageways or spaces between existing small houses, the width or area of which is not large enough for building small houses. Furthermore, small house applications may be made at sites outside a "V" zone. Therefore, we are unable to provide information about the area of government land reserved for building small houses.

(2) At present, the implementation of the Policy is subject to the availability of land for building small houses, but does not aim at providing adequate land for applications by the estimated number of eligible indigenous villagers. As a matter of fact, the demand for small houses may change with factors such as birth and growth of indigenous villagers. As aforementioned, whether or not an indigenous villager would apply for a small house grant is dependent on his own circumstances and wishes, and not all eligible indigenous villagers aged 18 years or above will submit an application. It is thus impossible for the Government to accurately estimate the land requirement for small house development. Given the prevailing policy, the Government needs to reserve a certain amount of land for applications for building small houses.

     The Government recognises the need to review the Policy in the context of prevailing land use planning as well as optimal utilisation of land resources. Such review will inevitably involve complicated issues in various aspects such as legal, environment, land use planning and demand on land, all of which require careful examination. The Government has not come to a stance yet on any suggestions with regard to the Policy. We will keep an open and vigilant mind in examining every suggestion carefully, while maintaining dialogue with people from different walks of life.

(3) As aforementioned, the planning intention of the "V" zone is mainly to reflect existing villages and for small house development by indigenous villagers within recognised villages. The purpose of setting up the "V" zone is also to concentrate village type developments therein for a more orderly development. However, "V" zones are scattered across the territory and generally not suitable for large-scale development because they are too dispersed and usually constrained by the existing infrastructural and other ancillary facilities.

     To cater for the needs arising from Hong Kong society's on-going development, the Government has been proactive in implementing a series of new development areas and new town extension projects. Among these projects, quite a number are located in the rural New Territories in which existing villages, brownfield sites, squatter areas, agricultural land and land of other uses are scattered. Generally speaking, it is not feasible for the existing infrastructural and community facilities in these areas to cope with the demand arising from the future population growth or the further development of the new towns. The Government's strategy for developing such areas is to conduct comprehensive planning with a view to examining the development constraints of the areas and the overall needs of society, and addressing the potential traffic, environmental and other impacts caused by the proposed developments. This will ensure sufficient infrastructural and community facilities for the future development, and at the same time improve land use and development patterns for the areas concerned. Such strategy for releasing suitable land for new development areas/new town extension is more effective than developing individual parcels of rural land, and can also better benefit the areas and society as a whole.  

Ends/Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Issued at HKT 13:18


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