LCQ22: Public housing development projects

     Following is a question by the Hon Alice Mak and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):


     In order to meet the public housing production targets set out in the Long Term Housing Strategy, the Government has, in recent years, been actively identifying lands in various districts for housing production. Some members of the public have noticed that not only does the Government build single-block public rental housing buildings by making use of every single small site, it also plans to rezone a number of open space sites (such as the open space site at Tsing Hung Road, Tsing Yi) for public housing development use. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

     (1) for those public housing projects in the four districts of Kwai Tsing, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long in respect of which the authorities are currently conducting or will conduct district consultation by the financial year 2020-2021, of the details of such projects including, for each project, (i) the project name, (ii) the location, (iii) the respective numbers of various types of public housing units proposed to be built, (iv) the areas of the sites currently designated for open space use within the project area, (v) the planned population, (vi) the intake year for the first-batch residential units, and (vii) the current land use of the site concerned (set out in a table);

     (2) given that some residents are of the opinion that the rezoning of the open space site at Tsing Hung Road, Tsing Yi for the development of public housing will reduce the area of open space in the district and result in the disappearance of a buffer between the residential area and Container Terminal Number 9 ("CT9"), thereby subjecting the relevant residents to the light and noise pollution generated by the operation of CT9, how the Government will, when implementing that project, make up for the loss of the open space area in the district and alleviate the impacts of light and noise pollution on the residents; whether the Government will conduct district consultation afresh regarding that project; if it will, of the timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and

     (3) whether it has any plan to redevelop Cheung Ching Estate; if it does, of the details, including the timetable for conducting district consultation and the sites identified for in-situ re-provisioning; whether the site for the public housing project at Tsing Hung Road is one of the sites identified; if so, of the details and justifications?



     Having consolidated the input from the Planning Department, set out below is my reply to each part of the question raised by the Hon Alice Mak.

     (1) Details of the public housing projects which will be completed between 2016-17 and 2021-22 at Kwai Tsing, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long districts are set out in Table 1. The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) has already consulted relevant district councils on these projects.

     We have also begun the district consultation exercise for some of the projects scheduled for completion in 2020-21 and beyond. Details of these projects are in Table 2.

     For projects with completion dates in 2021-22 and beyond, most of them are at the preliminary planning and design stage and are subject to a host of factors such as change of land use, infrastructure construction, site formation works, etc. Many of these project sites are subject to technical studies or investigation and some also involve land resumption, clearance or re-provisioning of existing facilities. As the development programme of these projects are subject to changes, it is difficult to provide detailed information and the time for consulting district councils at this stage.

     (2) The former Territory Development Department completed the South-East Tsing Yi Port Development Planning and Engineering Feasibility Study for Container Terminal No.9 (CT9 Study) in 1991. The CT9 Study recommended that the sites originally zoned as "Industrial" ("I"), where Rambler Crest is now located, to serve as buffer for the impact of noise and light pollution generated from CT9. This recommendation was eventually implemented through the development of Rambler Crest and the adjacent hotel development.

     As to the original site of the public housing development at Tsing Hung Road (the subject site), the CT9 Study also recommended to put in place a buffer distance between the aforesaid "I" zones and the surrounding residential developments to mitigate environmental impacts on the nearby residential units caused by the industrial activities. The original site of the public housing development at Tsing Hung Road was hence recommended for "Open Space" ("O") use with an intention to provide landscaping and recreational facilities for the population nearby, instead of providing screening effect to the noise and glare impacts generated by CT9.

     Since 2013, the Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach to build up land reserve with a view to meeting housing and other development needs. Since there was no confirmed development plan for the subject "O" site, it was identified as "having potential to be rezoned for residential use".

     In making the relevant decision, the Government has considered various factors including the fact that existing and planned provision of open space in Tsing Yi already met the requirement of the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (HKPSG). The Kwai Tsing District Council was consulted on 8 May 2014 on the Tsing Hung Road public housing development and another 12 identified potential housing sites in Kwai Tsing District. The Government considered that the subject site was suitable for public housing development, and the associated problems such as noise, air ventilation, light pollution and traffic and transport could be resolved by various technologies.

     On August 7, 2015, the Town Planning Board (TPB) gazetted the proposed rezoning of the original site of the Tsing Hung Road public housing development from "O" to "Residential (Group A)4" ("R(A)4") in accordance with the Town Planning Ordinance. After considering the representations and comments expressed in respect of the proposed rezoning; land uses in the surrounding areas; the planning intention of the "O" zone at the original subject site; and the technical feasibility of the proposed public housing development on May 20 and June 17, 2016, the TPB considered that the original site was suitable for the proposed public housing development and that the problem of noise, air ventilation, light pollution and traffic could be resolved by various technologies. However, in order to make the public housing development more palatable, some TPB Members considered that the adverse representations could partially be met by adjusting the site area of the public housing development through rezoning about two hectares of land at the northern part of the original subject site from "R(A)4" zone to "O", so as to form a consolidated open space with the existing Tsing Hung Road Playground in order to strike a balance between meeting housing demand and providing open space for the existing and planned population.

     The TPB also held an eight-day hearing from October to November 2016. The TPB will decide whether to amend the draft Outline Zoning Plan in accordance with the proposed amendment or make further changes to the proposed amendment as appropriate after considering the views expressed at the hearing. The zoning of the subject site will be confirmed by then.

     Compared with the requirement of the HKPSG, there is a surplus of two hectares of existing and planned district open space; and a surplus of 28 hectares of local open space in Tsing Yi District. This includes the aforesaid two hectares of open space at the northern portion of the original subject site proposed to rezoned from "R(A)4" to "O"; and about 0.65 hectares of local open space within the remaining "R(A)4" zone. Apart from the open spaces provided by the existing private and public housing developments in Tsing Yi, there are local open spaces, namely, Tsing Hung Road Playground, Mei King Playground, Ching Hong Road Playground, etc. serving the population nearby. If the two hectares of open space are to be rezoned back from "R(A)4" to "O" at the northern part of the original subject site and with the proposed greening ratio of 30% at the proposed public housing development, the planning intention of providing landscaping and recreation facilities can by and large be maintained.

     With regard to light pollution, currently there is no standard guideline or assessment requirement under the HKPSG in respect of glare. The HA will try to minimise possible glare impact from CT9 on the proposed public housing through building disposition and design at the detailed design stage. The Government has also conducted a series of technical assessments for the proposed public housing development.

     Regarding noise impact, the HA will enhance design features such as building disposition, installation of acoustic windows/balconies and architectural fins, as well as setback of building blocks from road to ensure that the noise level complies with the HKPSG and requirements under relevant noise control regulations. Subject to the current progress and decision of land use rezoning, the HA will need to revise the planning and the design of the proposed public housing development at Tsing Hung Road. The HA will consult District Council and listen to its views at appropriate time.

     (3) The HA has four major criteria regarding the redevelopment of aged public rental housing (PRH) estates, i.e. structural condition of buildings; cost-effectiveness of maintaining the buildings; availability of suitable reception resources near the redeveloped estates; and the build-back potential. In fact, as pointed out by Audit Report No.62, published in April 2014, past experience indicates that while redevelopment of aged PRH estates might increase the supply of PRH units in the long term, it would, in the short term, reduce the public housing stock and generate additional rehousing needs from displaced tenants, hence affecting the time for PRH allocation to other applicants. As mentioned in the "Long Term Housing Strategy" promulgated in December 2014, while redevelopment may increase PRH supply over the long term, it will, in the short term, reduce PRH stock available for allocation. This will inevitably add further pressure to the HA in terms of PRH allocation. The net gain in flat supply from redevelopment requires a long period of time to realise, very often towards the last phase of the redevelopment. Hence, redevelopment can at best serve as a supplementary source of PRH supply.

     Given the current high demand for PRH, large scale redevelopment programme is also not suitable as it will result in freezing a large number of PRH units that may otherwise be allocated to needy households. The HA has to be very cautious in considering redevelopment on an estate-by-estate basis. At present, we have no plan for redeveloping Cheung Ching Estate.  HA will continue to upkeep and improve aged PRH estates in accordance with the on-going "Comprehensive Structural Investigation Programme" and "Estate Improvement Programme".

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Issued at HKT 13:05