Maybe they should call it a Task Feebleness

The Hong Kong government’s main effort to solve the city’s housing problem has been the formation of a Task Force on Land Supply. It has had no visible impact on making housing more affordable. Instead, it has discussed drug-induced fantasies like building platforms above container ports and reclaiming reservoirs. Such ramblings confirm that the officials behind the Task Force wish to divert public attention from realistic measures (and insult our intelligence). It is possible they will next try to amuse us with a sliver of a golf course.

A few months back, an idealistic NGO quietly floated a suggestion. They proposed a fully independent body (something like a specialized citizens’ jury) to list and examine all the possible new sources of land for homes. With no vested interests undermining the process, we would at last get an objective view of the options to make housing more affordable. Needless to say, no more was of heard of it.

A column in today’s South China Morning Post mildly concedes that the official approach has its limits. It actually calls the port/reservoir inanity a ‘diversion’ and admits that re-zoning brownfield, agricultural and other sites would be more practical. It even starts to hint at extremely obvious and easy solutions, when it states that ‘the government prospered’ last year from auctioning land to developers at wacko prices – but then the Don’t Think Out Of That Box alarms go off.

By seeking maximum land/development revenues for itself (in addition to the developers’ fat margins), the government just pushes housing prices up further. It is a perverse system: rather than acting as an enabler, the state in Hong Kong competes with the rest of the population and economy in a zero-sum struggle for an essential resource. The government actively tries to make it as expensive as possible for people and businesses to access space to live and work. It then acts puzzled when people complain of poor living conditions and limited spending power, or entrepreneurs can’t thrive (or people have illegal structures). And the government has no use of the extra revenue! It could pull the plug on this idiocy tomorrow.

Other ways to make homes cheaper involve tackling the demand side, like barring Mainland money-launderers from buying property here. The list of possibilities is long. Again, the government and its supporters act oblivious to the fact that such options exist.

The naïve NGO mentioned above was suffering a major delusion: it imagined that the government sees unaffordable housing as a problem, and land supply as a solution. The truth is that unaffordable housing is the aim, and land supply is the means and excuse.


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9 Responses to Maybe they should call it a Task Feebleness

  1. Paul says:

    TVB news often illustrates land stories with drone footage from the New Territories showing extremely large areas of small farm lots, parking areas, tin sheds.
    There’s tons of room for thousands of flats.
    Sure, pay off the legitimate landholders with a very good payment.
    But most importantly, tell the Heung Yee Kuk to prove their ownership/use of land for legitimate purposes before they get involved.
    The Fanling Golf Course should also be reduced in size.

  2. Probably says:

    As Hong Kong’s logistics business reduces and the local manufacturing has all but disappeared the answer is to rezone industrial premises in Kwun Tong, To Kwa Wan and Kwai Chung into residential. Simple really but it wouldn’t earn all of the land tax capital for the governemnt to sit on until the PRC calls on it to bail out the eventual collapse of Shadow Banking system.

  3. The problem is not the Government. Once again, you are absolutely wrong because you are simply biased and agenda-driven.

    The problem is that there are too many self-satisfied small property owners like yourself. They are an insuperable lobby, created by the colonial regime to keep Hong Kong divided and quiet.

    You also believe that capitalism can be attenuated or cured. Of course, it can only be destroyed and replaced by democratic socialism. But I am repeating myself again.

    What DID they teach you at university? Not much.

  4. Giggsy72 says:

    LegCo members have too much of their wealth tied up in the HK property market, to have any interest in actively working to reduce HK property prices, or to make HK housing more affordable to the masses.

  5. If the government is concerned about the impact of lower land prices on its revenues, it could stop wasting vast sums on white elephant projects. Furthermore, making Hong Kong more affordable for businesses would bring an increase in profits tax revenue to offset the loss of land sale revenues.

  6. Chris Maden says:

    The Hong Kong government is the world’s largest property development company. The tycoons are parasitic on it, and so beholden to it – and vice versa. As Giggsy72 says, most LegCo members have too much wealth tied up in property to want to change it (and, as Joe Blow said in response to my comment yesterday, our new Secretary of Justice appears conveniently ignorant of the laws regarding land use and buildings, so forget about enforcement). On top of that, according to one survey, about 60% of Hongkongers below the age of 30 would emigrate if they had the chance – they’ll never be able to afford a house in the land of their birth – and that’s probably the rebellious 60% that the government wants ousted so that docile mainlanders can take up the shit jobs and lousy pay on offer serving our plutocratic and disconnected “leaders” in their fantasy life styles.

    Add all of this up, and you’re pissing in the wind even thinking about change. Carve out what you can while you can, and hope you’ll avoid the violence when it all comes crashing down.

  7. Tom Hall says:

    I see that the massive douche bag NTSCMP is commenting his nonsense again.

  8. Din Gao says:

    @Tom Hall: Ignore him for he is a mere “Sheep in Sheep’s Clothing” – baaaaaaaaaa.

  9. Red Dragon says:

    An empty taxi pulled up, and George Adams got out.

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